> Janacek, Kodaly, Bartok Dorati/Mehta [RB]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Leos JANÁČEK (1854-1928)
Taras Bulba (1918)
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)

Concerto for Orchestra (1939)
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)

Concerto for Orchestra (1943)
Cleveland Orchestra/Christoph von Dohnányi (Janáček)

Philharmonia Hungarica/Antal Dorati (Kodály)
Israel PO/Zubin Mehta
rec Sept-Dec 1973, Marl, Germany (Kodály), March 1975 Kingsway Hall (Bartók), Oct 1989, Masonic Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio (Janáček) ADD/DDD

ELOQUENCE DECCA 467 602-2 [77.57] Superbudget

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 Finale.

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 and description.

Great value. Bartók, full of soloistic character and eccentricity. Janáček soulful and considered and a good if woolly Kodály - still a rarity.

Rob Barnett



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