This disc completes Pierre Boulez's survey of the major orchestral works of Béla Bartók with superlative recordings of three concertos: the Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra, the Concerto No. 1 for Violin and Piano, and the Concerto for Viola and Piano. The works themselves come from three different periods in the Hungarian composer's career; the Violin Concerto from his expressionist youth, the Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion from his modernist maturity, and the Viola Concerto from his American exile. Fortunately, Boulez has matured enough to give all three works the performances they deserve. With violinist Gidon Kremer and the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Violin Concerto comes off as a deeply expressive and lovingly lyrical work with astringent harmonies but achingly beautiful melodies. With pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich, percussionists Nigel Thomas and Neil Percy and the London Symphony, the Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion gets a more acerbic but brightly colorful and wonderfully rhythmic treatment. And with violist Yuri Bashmet and the BPO, the Viola Concerto receives a brilliant performance touched with longing and nostalgia. In every case, the soloists are first-rate, with Kremer perhaps coming in first with his beautiful take on the Violin Concerto's opening Andante sostenuto. And in every case, the accompaniment is ideal. Both orchestras are among the world's greatest and Boulez elicits from each of them performances of unsurpassed power and cogency. Recorded in crystalline digital sound, this disc should be heard by every Bartók fan and by any fan of twentieth century music.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Concerto for 2 pianos, percussion & orchestra, Sz. 115, BB 121|
|Violin Concerto (No. 1), Sz. 36, BB 48a|
|Viola Concerto (completed in 1949 by Tibor Serly), Sz. 120, BB 128|