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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars

on 29 September 2017
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on 23 September 2017
as expected
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on 12 September 2017
Really good. I like dancing to Concerto for Orchestra.
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on 8 December 2004
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?
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on 30 November 2008
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.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 17 December 2012
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.
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on 5 March 2014
This double CD contains all of Bela Bartok's Orchestral masterpieces played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Georg Solti.
This includes the Concerto for Orchestra,Music for Strings,percussion and Celesta,the Miraculous Mandarin [in suite form only,without the choir and the original ending],the Divertimento,Hungarian Sketches, Romanian Folk Dances and the Dance Suite.
They are extremely well played and interpreted.I often find Solti's recordings on the fierce side,but here that suits Bartok's music fine.
I am not a big fan of Bartok's chamber music,the string quartets etc,but his orchestral music is essential listening for an appreciation of 20th Century music.It is no tougher than Stravinsky's for example,or Shostakovich's music.
In addition to these major works,I can recommend Bartok's three concertos for piano,his two violin concertos and his ballet the Wooden Prince.
This is a very good place to start a collection of Bartok's orchestral music.It will lead you to wanting more!
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on 20 September 2017
Wonderful collection of Bartok's main orchestral pieces. Leaves out some of his earlier works (such as Kossouth), but these are less well known anyway. For me this is the best collection available, ay least by a non-Hungarian orchestra. Very well performed as you would expect and excellently interpreted by Maestro Solti. I listen to it free on amazon prime, which is an extra bonus. The recordings are also excellent: maybe not up to the current state of the art, but very good non the less. Solti was himself Hungarian by birth, so probably has an excellent insight into how these pieces should be played, particularly the folk music dimension.
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on 2 September 2013
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 £20 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!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 November 2008
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.
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