Bartók • Kodály Concertos for Orchestra
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša
Pentatone PTC 5186 626 (hybrid CD/ SACD) 55:30 mins
To pair Kodály and Bartók’s Concertos for Orchestra seems such an obvious idea that you may wonder why it is so seldom done. The reason isn’t far to seek: Kodály’s neoclassical single-movement piece is vastly inferior to his compatriot’s large-scale masterpiece. It consists of quick and slow sections arranged in a rondo-like pattern; while the lively sections include some neat jazzy writing, the slow music is rather flat and uninspired.
Hrůša takes a decidedly serious view of the Bartók, giving a finely judged account of its slow introduction, and in the ‘Elegy’ third movement eliciting some superbly atmospheric playing from the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. One may wish, though, that he would let his hair down a bit more elsewhere: the Shostakovich parody in the ‘Intermezzo interrotto’ sounds rather straight-laced, and the witty ‘Giuoco delle coppie’ movement is on the slow side – more of an Allegretto than an Allegro scherzando. Again, the Presto finale could scamper just that little bit more. But these are relatively small points, and the performance as a whole is impressive. The recording is lifelike and well balanced, though in the brass chorale passages of the ‘Giuoco delle coppie’ the all- important side-drum part is all but inaudible.