Bartók • Lutoslowski

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bela Bartók,Witold Lutoslowski
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Bartók • Lutoslowski
WORKS: Lutoslawski: Musique funebre; Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances; Divertimento; Seven Songs
PERFORMER: Hungarian Radio Children’s Choir; Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra/Dennis Russell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 4764672

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This intelligent and satisfying programme features three contrasting miniature masterpieces by Bartók, and prefaces them with Lutosawski’s Musique funèbre, subtitled ‘À la mémoire de Béla Bartók’. As the only one of Lutosawski’s works dedicated to a composer, it reflects the extent to which the Pole saw his older Hungarian colleague as a kindred spirit. It not only embraces folk sources, but finds Lutosawski finally arriving at dodecaphony. His tone row, though, is appealingly earthy, and the 12-note chords at the climax have a powerful scrunch, especially in this searing performance from the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies.

Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances are less well served: both the slowish tempos and the genteel arrangement itself should probably share the blame. The version is that for string orchestra, commissioned from Arthur Willner in 1937, the year before this Czech-born composer escaped to England. In the soft-edged performance here, however, the effect is strangely like a hoedown. Though well played, the Divertimento could also do with more rigour, so the disc’s other real draw is what’s billed here as Seven Songs, a selection of children’s choruses from Bartók’s 1935 collection of 27 Two- and Three-Part Choruses, sounding wonderfully fresh.

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John Allison