Bartók Concerto for Orchestra and The Miraculous Mandarin
Although he wrote plenty of music with orchestra, Bartók composed comparatively little work for full orchestra alone after about 1912. Apart from his two ballets, The Wooden Prince (1914-17) and The Miraculous Mandarin (1918-19), there are only the Dance Suite (1923) and the Concerto for Orchestra (1943). The present disc thus presents about half of his mature work for this particular medium.
The Hungarian performances on Nimbus are by far the most interesting, but also the most wilful."Echoes of Fricsay" was my first thought as mysterious strings, heavy with significance, open the door on Bartok's introduction to the Concerto for Orchestra. The tremolandos bristle with anticipation, and it's not often you hear the violas sul ponticello in the eighth bar intensify the colour quite so dramatically. So far so good. A similar moodiness prevails in Fischer's account of the "Elegia"— truly a 'vale of tears': the opening bars once again most beautiful, the atmosphere highly charged, a glazed look about the eyes for the high-flying oboe solo.
Where he scores, as ever, is on atmosphere, the first of the enticing clarinet solos emerging from some seedy back alley through a shudder of string tremolando—space, isolation and menace conspiring to chilling effect. I do greatly approve of the wild assault of percussion at the start of the chase, the craggy trombones, the generally coarse-cut nature of the Hungarian sound. Their woodwinds are a highly personable team throughout this disc; while the strings score for me over the Berlin Philharmonic with their honest and earthily homespun responses.