Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra; Kossuth; Three Village Scenes

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bartok
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Concerto for Orchestra; Kossuth; Three Village Scenes
PERFORMER: SLUK Slovakian Folk Ensemble Choir, Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: 456 575-2
Magical, atmospheric, seductive. Fischer’s musicality is selfless but distinctive, his command of the Bartók manner, his grasp of cadence, rhythm and inflection unmistakable, his imaginative understanding of pliant old-world phrasing and rubato (so remarkably demonstrated in his 1997 collection of Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies) unrivalled. Reminiscent of Giulini, his strength, his quiet authority, is to let the music speak at its own pace: he doesn’t force it, he nurtures it to grow and climax through the attentiveness and reciprocation of his players. Contrasting those Hungarians (Solti, Ormandy, Dorati) who traditionally favoured a hard-driven, outwardly brilliant Concerto, he prefers instead, in the more direct, less histrionic Reiner tradition (1955), to generate energy and structure through concentrating on inner resources of intensity and repose, freed of exaggerated, belligerent point-making. His gift for the longer line, and for floating brilliantly incisive cameos of conversation, dance and fantasy on it, is striking. (The finale is a stunning display track, nowhere more spine-tingling than at 2:45.) Such virtuoso celebration, rich in individual and collective glories, vindicates Fischer’s faith in the musicians of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. In concert, their body language, responding to the music’s passion and poetry, to each other in frown or smile, is something extraordinary to witness. On disc, amazingly, it’s an interaction you can still sense. Kossuth, youthful Lisztian/ Straussian debt notwithstanding, gels definitively. The drama courses deep, the tension is palpable, the summation painful. Ates Orga

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