With one of the largest back catalogues in the business, why did Decca choose these 1981 recordings of Bartok for reissue? It's simply because they haven't been bettered, and I don't believe they ever will: During its time under the exacting Georg Solti the Chicago Symphony Orchestra attained a position as a world-class band, bearing easily all comparisons with Berlin and Vienna. When conducting Hungarian music Solti, who had been a pupil of Bartok's, always demonstrated a special authority. This shines through in the precision, eloquence and sheer expressiveness of these performances.
The Decca sound engineers of the time were the best in the business and they were well placed to take advantage when the new digital recording technology came along. It's hard to believe, listening today, that this would have been one of the earliest commercial pressings using the technique. Their trick was to capture the full power of the orchestra, whilst allowing individual instruments to be heard in their natural positions and at a believable dynamic - "close miking", with its unnatural sound levels in the quiet passages, was never detectable. The relationship between the instruments, both spatially and in volume, always sounded so authentic, but no detail was ever missed. Sadly, modern recordings just aren't as good!
I was happy to pay full price for these CDs when they first came out. Now you get both of them together as a mid-price offering. What are you waiting for?