Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra - Keller
Classical - Orchestral
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra, Hungarian Pictures
András Keller (conductor)
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Review by Graham Williams - July 3, 2023
András Keller and his Concerto Budapest are on home ground both musically and geographically for their latest recording made in Tacet’s real surround with this coupling of one of Bartók’s most popular and most recorded works the ‘Concerto for Orchestra’ and ‘Hungarian Sketches’ (the latter being the composer’s most popular orchestral transcription, at least on disc), both of which suit them like a glove.
'Hungarian Sketches', sometimes also referred to as ‘Hungarian Pictures', is a short suite consisting of orchestrations by the composer of five piano pieces composed between 1908 and 1911 during Bartók's journey around Romania and Hungary, when he started collecting and arranging folk music. The suite consists of five movements: 'An evening in the village', 'Bear dance', 'Melody', 'Slightly tipsy' and 'Swineherd's dance'. Keller and his orchestra perform these attractive folk-like miniatures with obvious affection and idiomatic playing, notably from the deliciously characterful woodwind.
To my knowledge, the only other recording of the ‘Concerto for Orchestra’ in immersive surround sound is the rather gimmicky quadraphonic version made by Pierre Boulez and the NYPO. This was recorded in the Grand Ballroom, Manhattan Center, New York on the 18th of December 1972 by Columbia/CBS and is now available on a Dutton Epoch SACD. That recording makes no attempt to suggest a fixed layout of the orchestra and instruments spring up sometimes randomly via the four channels used.
This new Tacet version recorded by Tonmeister Andreas Spreer is in a different class altogether.
The recording uses all the available 5.1 channels and the whole 360° acoustic space (in this case that of the Italian Institute, Budapest) for the orchestra. The liner notes provide a diagram of the orchestral layout used so that listeners may make adjustments to their system to achieve a coherent and satisfying sound picture. The results can be remarkable as those who have experience of previous Tacet ‘Real Surround Sound’ recordings will know. It is worth noting that for naysayers or those sceptical of Tacet’s approach, the disc can be played in normal 2-channel stereo.
In performance terms any new recording of Bartók’s ‘Concerto for Orchestra’ on SACD has to compete with more than a score of formidable versions including those from conductors such as Solti, Kocsis and the historic 1955 Reiner recording with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that very few have ever equalled. Keller’s trenchant account of the score is most impressive thanks to Concerto Budapest’s idiomatic sound and the conductor’s astute pacing of each of the work’s five movements.
One’s only regret is that an additional work could have been included on the SACD. The Reiner version referred to above with the same coupling as here also includes the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, a substantial fill-up.
Recommended, especially to those with the capability to listen in surround sound.
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