WORKS: Divertimento; Romanian Folk Dances (arr. Willner)/Concerto for Strings
PERFORMER: Virtuosi di Kuhmo/Peter Csaba
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 919-2
One of the many stunning Finnish chamber orchestras currently active, the Virtuosi di Kuhmo live up to their name: these are bravura performances, incisive and committed, beautifully shaded and with a wealth of textural subtlety. The slow movement of Bartók’s Divertimento, deeply elegiac and powerfully projected, is especially impressive, and as a whole Peter Csaba’s finely shaped interpretation of this 20th-century string classic must be one of the best currently available.
The popular Romanian Folk Dances were an obvious coupling: but to combine Miklós Rózsa’s Concerto of 1943 with a work of the stature of Bartók’s Divertimento adds up to a big vote of confidence in Rózsa as a composer for the concert hall as well as for Hollywood. Though more traditional in conception – it’s richer and more full-blooded in texture and relies more on big melodic gestures – it’s no neo-Romantic indulgence but instead suggests an individual blend of the Hungarian national style pioneered by Bartók and Kodály. No probing masterpiece, but a fine, strong, enjoyable work that doesn’t deserve the supercilious apologetics of Timo Virtanen’s booklet notes. This too is a first-rate performance, superior in technique, sound and insight to its only rival (NZSO under James Sedares in Koch’s Rózsa series), making much more of the soulful central slow movement. Calum MacDonald