Skalkottas, Haydn, Bart—k, Brahms & Komitas

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COMPOSERS: Bartok,Brahms & Komitas,Haydn,Skalkottas
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Dances from the Heart of Europe
WORKS: Works by Skalkottas, Haydn, Bartók, Brahms & Komitas
PERFORMER: I Musici de Montréal/Yuli Turovsky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10094
One can only applaud programming that sets Haydn cheek by jowl with Bartók, or Brahms with Skalkottas. In their exploration of Central European dance idioms, from Viennese waltzes to Armenian folklore, the five composers represented here seem less separated by time than drawn together by a subject matter that allows them to let their hair down (yes, even Haydn in this account of the 12 German Dances).

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Turovsky and his Montreal players have proved in several previous releases that they are an excellent and responsive band: the bite of their attack, the full tone and alertness of rhythm they bring to Skalkottas’s string-orchestra versions of his Greek Dances quite outclass the Malmö Symphony under Nikos Christodoulou in BIS’s Skalkottas series. They give a very smoochy, gypsified account of Bartók’s Romanian Dances, and I’m not sure that Brahms’s Liebeslieder Waltzes really work in this medium, for all the skill of Friedrich Hermann’s transcription and the pleasure of the performance. (Let me note that Brahms’s own Liebeslieder Suite for small orchestra isn’t currently recorded.)

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The most unusual and infectious music here is in fact the arrangements of Armenian songs and dances by Komitas (1869-1935), which pre-date the Turkish massacre of 1915 and are given here in highly atmospheric string transcriptions by Sergei Aslamazian (one of them includes a virtuosic, and uncredited, drummer). Fifty-two tracks in all, and an intriguing and enjoyable disc. Calum MacDonald