This disc brings out the more mysterious, magical side of Bartok as opposed to the edgier, even savage facet of his writing. There is plenty of air around the instruments which allows the sense of the concert hall to be felt - an air charged with atmosphere it is, too. The strings have a tendency to really dig into the music and find the feeling that underpins it, with none of the glassiness I have sometimes felt on older recordings. It feels as if Bartok is telling a story ... in spite of the classicism of both works, there is a palette of many colours produced by the Baltimore orchestra, particularly in the Concerto. Marin Alsop shapes every phrase with acute attention to dynamics and the result is compelling and makes you feel Bartok was one of the great orchestrators. The Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta is an elusive score that seems to express sadness in the slow movements, but there is also an intensity that is more abstract, that comes from the tautness of the structure and the working out of the ideas. This cannot be given a name, but it compels the ear and is paradoxically liberating, a bit like working out the meaning of a text in a difficult foreign language. You feel braced by it, and this is backed up by the faster music. How magical the syncopated chords over string pizzicato in the second movement, here delivered with superb immediacy in the sound. There is the directness that comes across in Alsop's live appearances and makes her one of the most wonderful and balanced of conductors, in fact there is no conductor I would rather hear than her! There is no ego thing going on, as you so often feel with others, but a workmanlike approach joined to the most vivid imagination and sense of the composer's universe - you know that you are in the best possible hands.