Sir Charles Mackerras is one of the greatest interpreters of Eastern European music conducting today. His output includes a plethora of award-winning recordings of Czech and Hungarian music, but this is Sir Charles' first recording of Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion & Celeste.
Bartók had a fascination with folk-dance rhythms and colourful expression. Both works represented here would figure in any round-up of 20th century masterpieces and they share an intense expressiveness. Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste is Bartók's tour de force, a colourful and spectacular work, while the Divertimento is a deeply emotional piece written in the shadow of the Second World War.
Kodály shared Bartók's fascination with folk music and his 'Dances of Galánta' is a symphonic poem distinguished by brilliant orchestration and cast in rondo form, taking its
material from 18th-century verbunkos (Hungarian dance) music.
The pairing of Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók is typical enough. They were the undisputed champions of ethno-inspired early 20th-century classical music, dipping their quills deeply into the folk music of their native Hungary and translating its tantalizing rhythms and melodies into music of enormous originality and colour. Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra capture the mystery, the soulfulness, and the underlying spirit of the dance in these electrifying performances of Kodály’s Dances from Galánta, and Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste and Divertimento. Kenneth Walton - The Scotsman - 6th August, 2004
Technical Rating A-!
On an admittedly amateur note: my appreciation for the third movement of Bartók’s “Music For Strings, Percussion & Celeste” was initiated by Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining. Who can forget the tapping xylophone note motif or the mysterious string glissandos that are peppered throughout the classic film’s soundtrack? But like every great introduction to a fantastic work of music, exploring the whole is infinitely more rewarding than sampling the parts.
Linn Records’ hybrid/multi-channel SACD pairs Bartók’s “Music For Strings, Percussion & Celeste” and “Divertimento” with Zoltán Kodály’s “Dances Of Galánta,” another fine example of Hungarian music. Sir Charles Mackerras conducts the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and their approach to each work is sublime. Tempos are confident, yet unconfined by rigidity, and the SCO players tackle each piece with assurance. The sound quality of the native DSD recording is excellent; however, casual listeners may be tempted to remark that the audio was recorded at too low a level. In fact, all the dynamics and transients of the performances are intact and have not been squashed by limiting or compression. Engineers and mixers Philip Hobbs and Calum Malcolm have opted for a naturalistic surround sound approach: the orchestra occupies a wide “U” shaped soundstage that emanates from the front speakers and dissolves into the rears with the ambience. This hybrid SACD contains hi-res DSD stereo and surround mixes, along with a standard resolution stereo layer (HDCD-enhanced) for regular CD players.
Highly recommended for “newbies” and seasoned aficionados alike!
Felix E. Martinez - HDTV Magazine
I like this recording enough to cry "Encore!" for a companion disc containing Bartók's Dance Suite and other short works by Bartók and Kodály.
Gramophone - Awards Issue
...there's something very inviting about the warmth Mackerras casts over this music, a warmth aided by Linn's well-handled recording.
A 'wonderful' and 'sparkling' performance
International Record Review
Atlanta Audio Society
The vivacity of the outer movements is of special note in this performance.
Highly recommended for "newbies" and seasoned aficionados alike!
The Sunday Times
...their playing here has a virtuosity, a rhythmic élan and a palette of rich orchestral colour to challenge the finest performances.
A recording to 'keep you on the edge of your seat'
What Mackerras has going for him is delicate yet potent recorded sound...
These are thrillingly alive performances, persuasive in every department and superbly recorded.
...Mackerras brings vividness and a real sense of drama.
A 'ravishing disc'
The Daily Telegraph
...as fresh and authentic as they come...
...music of enormous originality and colour.