has treated these excellent performances shamefully over the years,
and it is about time they were reissued. They were recorded in
the mid 1990s but kept on ice until 2001. They hardly saw the
light of day before being deleted and forgotten. If these were
just another set of Bartók performances that would be no great
loss, but they are much more than that. These performances from
Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra are among the best
that either of these scores has received. They are also probably
the most perfumed, evocative performances of these scores you
will hear. Other accounts of both works may be more incisive
and powerful, but none is so beautiful. If ever a conductor viewed
Bartók through the lens of Debussy, Chailly is that conductor.
subtle colouring and shading of parts at the very opening of the
Concerto for Orchestra set the scene for an atmospheric performance.
There is wry humour in the second movement and in the Shostakovich
parody of the fourth. The ghostly third movement is all atmospheric
mystery, the Bluebeard references highlighted with a caress.
The finale, though perhaps lacking a little in voltage, is of
a piece with the performance as a whole. Chailly keeps the music
moving throughout, most notably in the first and fourth movements,
but the pacing always feels natural.
are, of course, many other excellent performances of this landmark
score in the catalogue. At bargain price alone you can have Mehta’s
colourful account on Australian
Eloquence or Jansons’ powerhouse recording on EMI Encore.
If you love this piece, though, you will want to hear Chailly.
complete ballet score of The Miraculous Mandarin also receives
a ravishing performance, generously indexed on this disc. The
hard edge that may be expected is missing, but in its place is
a sensual simmer that many listeners may find surprising in this
piece. The violence is still there, but clothed in the decadent
orchestral colouring of decaying romanticism. Never has this
score seemed so close to Berg’s Lulu. While it may be
expected that this approach would soften the edge of the drama,
the beauty only serves to heighten the tragedy.
there are many excellent Mandarins on the market, including Australian
Eloquence’s excellent offering with the Vienna Philharmonic under
Again, Chailly is distinctive and more than worth hearing.
I need to mention that the playing of the orchestra is exemplary,
from the silky strings, to the colourful winds, to the incisive
brass? Or that the recorded sound is of vintage Decca quality
in the world of digital stereo?
Put simply, this is an individual and essential
Bartók album. Order it from Arkiv while you can.