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80 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They don't come better than this,
By A Customer
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?
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two discs of superb performances and recordings,
This two disc set, recorded in the 1980's, gathers together arguably the key Bartok non-piano works for orchestra in a very convenient package. Every one of these performances has reason to be considered to be one of the very finest if not the finest recordings made over the last 20 years or so.
Georg Solti, as an Hungarian, was naturally in sympathy with the Bartok idiom and thus we have unusually sympathetic interpretations of these works. The Chicago orchestra since Reiner's day has always been considered one of the finest orchestra in the States with arguably the most European sound. Their recording of the Concerto for Orchestra with Reiner is still considered to be an outstanding example of performance and recording combined. In this case the orchestra under Solti are able to match Reiner's achievement with the further advantage of more modern sonics. The main difference, interpretively, between the performance and Solti's earlier one with the LSO concerns the Tempo chosen for the 'couples' movement which Solti feels is more in line with Bartok's wishes in this CSO recording.
The two sets of dances are both ideal and the Dance Suite is played with brilliance and understanding. My personal preference for this piece is, once more, the predecessor with the LSO which seems to have an element of humour missing in this rather more driven account. At this point it may be worth mentioning that Decca have issued the earlier Bartok/LSO disc with Solti in their 24 bit remastered 'legends' series which suggests that they too, feel that the earlier recording has something special to say.
The Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta is wonderfully played, the best I have heard and the Miraculous Mandarin leaves little to be desired other than the whole ballet which is musically more satisfying being less truncated at the start and finish. The whole ballet is well served by Abbado's recording. The Divertimento is yet another wonderful performance if not entirely erasing the entirely Hungarian performance by Rolla and his orchestra on another fine Bartok disc. That offers less hard-driven performances giving an alternative view of Bartok which I find equally noteworthy and sympathetic.
The recordings are superb, the performances are superb and the value is superb. As a two disc set this seems to be untouchable and should be considered a priority by all interested purchasers. Solti, typically, drives hard and extracts maximum brilliance from these recordings so it must be suggested that collectors may also wish to explore recordings that emphasise different aspects of this composer as hinted at above.
Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:
I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)
I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)
I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
Keep up the good work!
Thank you (UK review)
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Solti,
Georg Solti was a wonderful interpreter of Bartok as a conductor (though a dreadful one as a pianist!) All of these recordings are from late in his career, I think the earliest is from 1980. You will hear some so called experts say his LSO recordings from the 1960s are better, don't listen. Hearing these recordings, it is as if Solti's entire life experience of conducting these masterpieces has been distilled into that moment. Essential.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every one of these pieces is a masterpiece,
I came to these pieces from the string quartets expecting music of similar difficulty, but it would seem that Bartok reserved the quartet as his most experimental medium. All of these pieces are filled with beauty, colour and excitement.
Nothing on the first disc is difficult music. Though there are some atonal harmonies and some non-standard time signatures, these are rooted in tonality and the rhythms of folk dance. All the pieces on the first disc include clashes of dark and light, but all conclude with an overwhelmingly positive character. The Concerto for Orchestra is the most large scale work and includes several memorable moments, one of my favourites of which is the glorious brass section in the second movement. The remaining pieces on disk one are filled with East European folk idioms that are predominantly gay and flamboyant.
The second disc includes the pieces that might be thought a little more difficult to the Classical ear. The Concerto for Strings, Percussion and Celeste has a very mysterious flavour with some dazzling twelve-tone harmony, but with such rhythmic excitement as to carry it out of the realms of difficulty. Though relatively brief, the following Divertimenti for Strings continue the twelve-tone polyphony with great power and gusto. The final piece, The Suite from the Miraculous Mandarin, is truly strange, as is its theme, basically a sequence of chase scenes, filled with macabre and sinister humour.
These discs are fantastic value at the price. Although I can imagine more spacious recordings of these pieces, I cannot imagine them more tonally balanced - each instrument glows. Neither can I imagine them more beautifully played or perfectly paced. Clearly this is Solti's home ground.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent recording,
Bartok stunningly executed with the best (in my opinion) interpreter of his work. A delight to listen to. Phenomenal, imaginative orchestration, dynamic rhythms & East European V American themes all brought out with sensitivity & compassion. Thoroughly recommend this recording
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Decca double,
The Solti Bartok orchestral recordings are truly excellent. These recordings will be around for a long long time for the simple reason they are expertly played with lots of passion, love and feel for the music. The Chicago SO play these pieces with such authority and humanity. Bartok can so often sound clinical and alien in the wrong hands, but thesse renditions are very accessible and draw you in to the unique soundworld.
Please check out Solti's recordings of the 2 Violin Concerto's with Chung which are classics as well as the 3 Piano Concerto's of which there are many excellent recordings (Pascal Roge/Weller-re issued late 2009 on Decca Elegance) (Schiff/Fischer)(Donohoe/Rattle) This is very rewarding music which demands repeated listening because it has great depth.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Bartok,
Bela Bartok will never ever be classed as easy listening. At first I wondered what on earth I had purchased, bit with a little persistence I started to ‘get’ what the Hungarian was trying to achieve. I have other CDs performed by Solti’s Chicago Symphony and like those, the outcome has always been an energetic and passionate interpretation. The only other Bartok I own is the Concerto for Orchestra, conducted by Charles Dutoit’s Montréal Symphony Orchestra, also on the Decca label, but that now costs the best part of Ł20 for a single disc. Although I prefer that recording, for someone wishing to explore Bartok for the first time, then this double CD is good value. My advice would be to stick with it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wondeful music,
Such a wonderful experience listening to this CD. AND the quallity of the recording is superb. Fully recommended. Good value.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully expressive performances,
Like the famous RCA stereo recording of Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta by Fritz Reiner, Solti also captures the mysterious atmosphere and the barbaric energy of the music masterfully. Solti's recording has the advantage of the 80s' digital recording which brings out detail and subtlety of Bartok's amazing orchestration. Concerto for orchestra and the other orchestral works are played superbly with Chicago Symphony Orchestra's sumptuous sound and remarkable musicianship.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bartok - a suprise package.,
I bought this on the strength of a 'loan' vinyl copy of the Concerto for Orchestra. I was attracted to this version as it was Sir George & CSR. I initially found the other pieces on this 2CD set hard going - slightly too avant garde for my tastes. However, persistance paid off and once I became more familiar, I realised what masterpieces they are.
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