A major work from each of three central European composers
of the first half of the last century.
The two Hungarians are joined by Janáček, the demolisher of shibboleths
whose unruly imagination minted works of compelling musicality.
The anthologised variety of this collection is accentuated
by the choice of a different orchestra and conductor for each work.
The unifying theme is the Decca provenance of each
tape and the presence of two Concertos for Orchestra. Both were written
for American orchestras, the Kodály for Frederick Stock's Chicago
and Bartók's for Koussevitsky's Boston. The Bartók is
well known so let's start with the Kodály. This is a divertimento
designed for display purposes. The style is open-air, cold and clean,
folksy, euphoric, glowing and singing. This is no narrow-spirited desiccated
soul but one who drew creativity in deep draughts from the vocal/instrumental
heritage of his countryside. The music has an uncannily harmonious twin
in the orchestral works of E. J. Moeran; something also noticeable in
the Kodály Symphony. Recordings of the Concerto have not been
legion. This one was part of a Dorati collection of the complete orchestral
works recorded in 1974. The complete sequence was issued on a generously
packed Decca twofer (443 006-2) in 1994. This is a serviceable rather
than indispensable version with warm spirit rather than brilliant virtuosity
from the augmented Vienna-based expatriate Hungarian orchestra fresh
from the complete Haydn symphonies.
Bartók's Concerto was the first of his
works written after his arrival in the USA. Mehta gives a performance
with plenty of gutsy attack. Purists be warned: there is some zooming
in for instrumental solos including some succulent woodwind work which,
time after time, as in the Intermezzo interronto, cries out 'listen
to me'. Generally this shows what a classy and personable orchestra
the Israel Phil was in 1975. This is Bartók given a romantic
twist both suave and rustic though ultimately rather diffuse in the
Dohnányi's Taras is expansive
and prayerfully meditative especially in the Death of Andrij.
If you hanker for a more dramatic approach then go for Serebrier on
Reference Recordings and for Ančerl
on Supraphon. The Supraphon Taras (1962)
is on EMI's 2CD GCOC Ančerl album just released. As the only
comprehensively digital recording here this version is not lacking in
the hifi department. A very satisfying reading for those seeking
a less dramatic and more contemplative Taras. My personal
preference is for the Serebrier - still far too little known.
The disc is in Eloquence's series 'Zubin Mehta - The
Decca Years' even though less than 50% of the disc is Mehta material.
Notes are by David Hurwitz. These are light on hard
facts (dates and locations of premieres) but high on engaging opinion
Great value. Bartók, full of soloistic character
and eccentricity. Janáček soulful
and considered and a good if woolly Kodály - still a rarity.