Commencing a series on Onyx dedicated to the orchestral music of Béla Bartók, Thomas Dausgaard and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra deliver dynamic performances of one of the composer's greatest works, the Concerto for Orchestra, SZ 116, accompanied by the less famous but deserving Suite No. 1, SZ 31, presented here without cuts. Because the Concerto for Orchestra is widely performed and recorded, listeners are likely to know it well, so Dausgaard's decision to open with the Suite No. 1 gives it a prominence that it rarely receives. Both works have parallels that are important to note, primarily the five-movement form and the quasi-symphonic internal structures that Bartók might have employed had he written an official symphony. Yet the Suite No. 1 is not strictly in the symphonic mold, but clearly owes a great debt to the symphonic poems of Richard Strauss, one of Bartók's key early influences, with nods to Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche and Don Juan being most apparent. While Bartók's musical identity was still forming when he composed the Suite in 1905, he was already a master by 1943 when he was commissioned by Serge Koussevitsky to write the Concerto, which proved to be one of his final works. Primarily a showpiece organized to feature instrumental soloists and small groups at their most virtuosic, the Concerto is nonetheless a profoundly moving work that has held its place in the repertoire for over 70 years, unlike the works of imitators. Recorded in February 2019 at the City Halls of Glasgow, the sound is full and vibrant, with clear details and rich tone.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Suite No. 1 SZ 31|
|Concerto for Orchestra Sz 116|