Like many of Decca's extraordinary offerings in The Originals series, this 2006 reissue of Georg Solti's recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra of Béla Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, Dance Suite, and Music for strings, percussion, and celesta is much more than a fresh repackaging of historic recordings from the vaults. Indeed, it is a superb collection of orchestral masterpieces, brilliantly conducted by one of the great interpreters of this repertoire and recorded with the best possible sound for its day. Solti's grasp of Bartók's musical language and expression is comparable to the deep understanding of another CSO maestro and fellow Hungarian, Fritz Reiner, whose authoritative renditions with this orchestra of the Concerto for Orchestra and Music for strings, percussion, and celesta set the standard for decades. It's reasonable to think, though, that Solti's recordings are similarly influential for the generation that grew up listening to them. Of course, there are arguments in favor of Reiner's versions, partly because of his close friendship with the composer and importance in promoting his music, but mainly because his readings are among the most persuasive ever made; anyone coming to these pieces for the first time would do well to hear Reiner's classic recordings on RCA. Solti's versions are quite similar in expression, tempo, and overall pacing, and obviously owe a debt to his predecessor on the podium. Yet they have a clear advantage in their improved sound quality: many of the fine background details one wishes could be heard more clearly in Reiner's recordings are strikingly revealed in Solti's; and as fine as RCA's recording process was for the late '50s, the orchestra's full dimensions and colors are captured better in Solti's all-digital recordings from the 1980s, which are exceptional even by contemporary standards. Ideally, one should have access to both recordings, but if this is not possible, Solti's are recommended as an excellent alternative.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Concerto for Orchestra, BB 123|
|Dance Suite, BB 86a|
|Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta, BB 114|