Sunday, March 26, 2006

CD REVIEW: Bartók/Lutoslawski

I just can't wait to share this review with you. I mean, when is the last time you can remember the Cincinnati Symphony getting a CD review in the Sunday New York Times? That's what I thought! Here it is:
A Conversation Between Composers, in Polish and Hungarian
By James R. Oestreich
New York Times, March 26, 2006

Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra; Lutoslawski: Concerto for Orchestra, Fanfare for Louisville
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Paavo Jarvi. Telarc 80618; CD.

PAAVO JARVI'S adventures as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony have been well documented in recent years by a series of excellent recordings from Telarc. Perhaps the finest was a coupling of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Nielsen's Fifth Symphony, released in 2004.

Here is another winner. The coupling of Lutoslawski's riveting Concerto for Orchestra (1954) with the work that probably inspired it, Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra (1943), seems inevitable, if only on the strength of Christoph von Dohnanyi's brilliant versions with the Cleveland Orchestra from the late 1980's, released on a 1990 CD from Decca.

The juxtaposition pits Bartok late in his career against Lutoslawski early in his. But with their allusions to Hungarian folk music in one case and Polish in the other, they come out in much the same place. Lutoslawski's concerto is for the most part louder and brasher, offering some of the most exhilarating noise this side of Janacek's Sinfonietta.

The skittish and intense Fanfare for Louisville, a minute and a half long, gives at least a taste of the later Lutoslawski as well.

Mr. Jarvi's interpretations are everywhere persuasive, and the performances almost uniformly virtuosic. Telarc's typically expansive sound is especially gratifying in the clatter and the occasional shriek of the Lutoslawski concerto.

The only caveat in recommending this recording is that the Dohnanyi CD is still available. It was made when the marvelous chemistry between Mr. Dohnanyi and the orchestra was at its formidable height. But Mr. Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony seem to have a chemistry thing going, too. And to say that the new release is worthy to set alongside that earlier one out of Ohio is no mean praise.

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