Originally recorded in 1994, this album was reissued by the Ars Musici label in 2010. The Basel Symphony Orchestra has some connections to the music on the album; before he emigrated to the U.S. and wrote the Concerto for orchestra, Basel was Bartók's home, and he wrote the Music for strings, percussion, and celesta for a related group, the Basel Chamber Orchestra, in 1936. But the chief attraction here may be the other work on the album, the seldom recorded Lachian Dances of Leos Janácek, composed in 1889 and 1890. The late-blooming Janácek was already 36 when these dances were completed, yet they have the feel of youthful music, with their model, Dvorák's two sets of Slavonic Dances, clearly in evidence. (The second Dvorák set appeared in 1886, and their success was certainly an inspiration.) Yet it's the differences from the older composer that catch the ear. Janácek uses actual folk tunes (the title refers to a part of the Moravian region of what is now the Czech Republic) on one hand and sets them in a slightly sparer style than Dvorák on the other; they're cut from the same cloth as the Slavonic Dances, but there's a more modern edge to them. The Concerto for orchestra is an offbeat reading. This work, as much as any other of the first half of the 20th century, was written for the mighty Euro-American symphony orchestra with all cylinders firing, and it's a broad piece, not without sentiment, that derives part of its appeal from the pan-orchestral virtuosity it requires of the players. The Basel group is equal to those demands, but conductor Walter Weller scales the feel of the work back to more modest dimensions; it's less emotional, more briskly folkish. This probably isn't the disc to choose if you're looking for a Concerto for orchestra, but it's an intriguing release, especially for Janácek fans.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Konzert für Orchester|