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Emotional shape

Music by Bartók,
reviewed by

Warner    2564 61947-2

Bartók - Sakari Oramo. © 2005 Warner Classics

If you regard Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra [listen -- track 3, 0:00-1:09] primarily as a virtuoso orchestral showpiece then you may be disappointed with this performance. If, on the other hand, you're looking for an interpretation that welds the five movements together into a unified experience, then it has a lot to offer. Oramo and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra focus on the work's overall musical and emotional shape rather than the sonic thrill of the moment. In particular, they do more than some interpreters I've heard to suggest the spiritual crisis behind the 'Elegia' third movement. As a result the work emerges almost as the symphony Bartók never wrote.

Both performance and recording ensure that, for the most part, details emerge with considerable clarity. I don't think I've heard the string fugato at the centre of the finale quite so clearly articulated. The clarity never becomes clinical, though, with Oramo and the orchestra generating a wonderfully spooky, Bluebeard-like atmosphere at the start of the third movement. It is above all a strongly rhythmic performance, marked by a whiplash response to Bartók's tempo changes.

Occasional slight hesitations don't damage the music's overall flow, though Oramo's marked pulling back in the finale's very last bars robs them of their last ounce of excitement.

The incisive playing of the four soloists [listen -- track 8, 0:00-1:10] makes for a compelling account of the Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion, though I remain convinced that the starker sound-world of the original, a sonata without orchestra, suits Bartók's conception better.

The Romanian Dances, in the version for strings, are haunting and exhilarating by turns [listen -- track 9, 5:29-6:23].

Copyright © 17 September 2005 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


Bartók - Sakari Oramo

2564 61947-2 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 70'45" 2005 Warner Classics

Heini Kärkkäinen, piano; Paavali Jumppanen, piano; Lassi Erkkilä, percussion; Tim Ferchen, percussion; Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Sakari Oramo, conductor

Béla Bartók (1881-1945): Concerto for Orchestra Sz 116/BB 123; Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion Sz 115/BB 121; Romanian Folkdances Sz 56/BB 68


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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews