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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Béla Bartók lifted European music into the twentieth century... by standing on ancient foundations. He created a "modern" sound based on studies of music that predated the mainstream of European musical development. With a solid intellectual and theoretical base, he made music that touches the heart and soul... and why didn't he have a guestbook sooner? Bartók taught me how to listen to music, so I'm glad that in this very small way, I can return the favor.
 

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The piano concertos are amongst my favourites.
I like Piano concerto No. 3 the most, and generally I love his slow piano concerto movements. Among my other beloved works are Concerto for Orchestra, Miraculous Mandarine and Violin concerto No. 2...I don't know why, but short orchestral introduction of this concerto impressed me very much, it is very simple, but sooo magical, with harp ostinato and pizzicato strings. A had to listen to this introduction again and again. And it is fascinating how Bartók use this short motif in developement of the first movement. The second movement as variations on fragile, folk-like thema is also very beautiful.
 

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Bartok the symphonist

So much of what he wrote sounds like a symphony (think of the Concerto for Orchestra or the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta) yet he hated using this title for some reason. Maybe he wanted to get away from the Germanic tradition. Whatever the reason notwithstanding this those works are definitely in the same league as Shostakovich's symphonies. Another great work is the Divertimento for Strings, a homage to the old classical form. He wasn't an iconoclast as some people think, he preferred to build upon rather than completely smash the traditions of classical music.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I hadn't checked in on this thread (which I had started) in a while. Thanks for all the comments. Habib, I especially enjoyed your comments on traditions and word choice. And confuoco, I can't remember when or even if I had ever heard the second violin concerto, a real treasure. Zombo, I too cherish the piano concertos, and Lang, I did not know that sad fact about the third. That adds an extra dimension to it for me.
 

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Concerto For Orchestra and Wooden Prince are by far the best pieces Bartok every wrote in my opinon.

Wooden Prince by Pierre Boulez with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is the best version and Concerto For Orchestra was the best done by Fritz Reiner with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Just my two cents.
 
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Oh, if you haven't heard them then prepare for a journey. They're very different to his orchestral music - far more intimate and intense but unique and among the greatest 20th century compositions.
In his opinion, which that within itself, isn't saying much.
 

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I just got the Decca 2 cd set of Ansermet conducting Bartok with the Suisse Romande & it is superb. Still sounds good, despite the fact that it was recorded in the 1950s. I mean the SR are by no means as polished as other orchestras might be, but Ansermet brings out of them playing which is very committed and gutsy. I have listened to a number of versions of the Concerto for Orchestra, and this is the best version I have heard. A raw, mysteriouis and turbulent reading. Another highlight is the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. Ansermet speeds it up, so it is very compelling.

These recordings are a surprise, as Ansermet is better known for his Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky interpretations. I recommend it to anyone and it's also a good introduction to Bartok's music, with the above two works as well as the Dance Suite, Two Portraits, Romanian Folk Dances and Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Julius Katchen). It is also at budget price, so very affordable.
 

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If you like Bartok, then I advise each and every one of you to check out Pierre Boulez's interpretation of "The Wooden Prince" on DG. It's a true highlight in his career.
 

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Bartok is just such an amazing composer. He's definitely influenced me and is in my top list of favorite composers.

I recently bought Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra's entire recordings of his orchestral music. I'm looking forward to hearing it because Fischer has recorded some not so well known compositions by Bartok.



I also have all of Pierre Boulez's readings of Bartok's music on Deutsche Grammophon, which are also amazing and stand as a stark contrast with Fischer's approach. It's important to remember that not all of Bartok's music is supposed to be brutal sounding as Boulez would have you to believe. As I mentioned in above posting, Boulez does do a fantastic job with "The Wooden Prince," but his "Miraculous Mandarin" is a little over-the-top.
 

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I really like the pieces commissioned by the Swiss conductor Paul Sacher during the '30s by Bartok (Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta; Divertimento for Strings). They are some of the best chamber works written at that time. For me, they reflect the turbulence and uncertainty of the time, Europe on the brink of war and destruction of everything. There is a deep uncertainty and unease in these works, particularly the 3rd movt. of the Music (you just sense something horrible is about to happen, before that devastating climax) & the 2nd movt. of the Divertimento, where the music is on the brink of totally disintegrating. No wonder the former was used by Kubrick in The Shining. The upbeat finales of both works attest, however, that Bartok was an optimist. Here, the band plays together, suggesting that if humanity combines, it can overcome all of these terrible odds and setbacks.

Sacher seemed to draw out the best from composers in his many commissions. Not only did he commission a significant concerto from Martinu (forget exactly which one), but also the bittersweet Metamorphosen by Richard Strauss, a work which actually looks back on the devastation wrought by WWII.

I am to hear the Bartok Music & the Strauss performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra here in Sydney in August. Can't wait!
 

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I've always far preferred the first two piano concertos to the third. The third is too conservative for Bartók. My favourite is the second one, although the sheer brutality and elementality of the first are even more fascinating.
 
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