Home Classical Music Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra | Classical Music

Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra | Classical Music

Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra | Classical Music


When Béla Bartók and his spouse, the pianist Ditta Pásztory, left Hungary for the US in 1940, it was not a second too quickly.

The composer was horrified by the Hungarian authorities’s alignment with Nazi Germany, and his outspoken stance appeared more and more prone to put his freedom, or his life, below risk. He had learn the runes effectively. In 1944, Hitler’s forces overran the nation.

In New York, the Bartóks had different issues to cope with: irascible landlords, road noise that generally confined the sound-sensitive composer to the lavatory for some peace, and, in fact, the indignity of getting to start out once more with nothing however a again catalogue. Worse, he was struggling unexplained bouts of fever – the primary signal of the leukaemia that will later kill him.

When did Bartók compose his Concerto for Orchestra?

Then, nevertheless, a deus ex machina appeared beside his hospital mattress. Serge Koussevitzky, chief conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, had been persuaded by two of Bartók’s Hungarian colleagues, the violinist Josef Szigeti and the conductor Fritz Reiner, to method him for a fee.

Bartók wanted each the cash and the vote of confidence. Retreating in August 1943 to the quiet environment of Saranac Lake, he set about writing a considerable, five-movement work and completed it in below two months. Slightly than a symphony, he titled it Concerto for Orchestra.

The end result was not solely a masterpiece, but additionally has proved enduringly well-liked. For a composer with a fame for tough works, it provides uncommon melodic allure; for one with a bent for darkness, it offsets its shadows with sunlit vitality, plus some outright comedy. This can be a Hungarian in New York: it’s filled with the rhythms of his native language however fizzes with relentless Large Apple power and optimism, belying its composer’s fragile state of well being.

As phrase unfold of Bartók’s presence within the US, extra commissions adopted; by the point the Concerto was premiered on 1 December 1944, he had virtually extra work than he may deal with. The efficiency was a direct success, and Koussevitzky adopted it with one other just a few weeks later, broadcast on the radio, plus a New York premiere in Carnegie Corridor.

Extra like this

Bartók’s Indian summer season additionally produced his Sonata for Solo Violin (for Yehudi Menuhin), his Piano Concerto No. 3 (for Ditta) and the Viola Concerto, which was unfinished when leukaemia caught up with him in September 1945. On his deathbed, he advised his physician that his biggest remorse was leaving with a ‘full trunk’ of unwritten music.

Why did he name it Concerto for Orchestra?

The Concerto for Orchestra does what it says on the tin. It’s a five-movement showpiece for a top-notch orchestra, drawing out the devices’ particular person natures: whirling flutes, cygnety oboes and velvety brass, searing strings and, to shut, the largest occasion on the town.

Bartók wrote: ‘The overall temper of the work represents, aside from the jesting second motion, a gradual transition from the sternness of the primary motion and the lugubrious death-song of the third, to the life-assertion of the final one… The title… is defined by its tendency to deal with the one orchestral devices in a concertant or soloistic method.’

A information to the music of Concerto for Orchestra

The introduction rises from a shadowy starting, gathering tempo till the complete orchestra springs finally right into a vigorous sonata-form allegro. The second motion, ‘Recreation [or ‘Presentation’] of {Couples}’, provides a procession of woodwind and brass in pairs and, later, bigger teams – you want an excellent third bassoon for this piece. The ‘Elegia’ is the work’s darkish coronary heart, the place Bartók appears to launch his full anguish; woodwind whirlpools virtually recall the Lake of Tears in his opera Duke Bluebeard’s Fortress.

The ‘Intermezzo interotto’ is at first a richly melodic inspiration, its large viola theme primarily based, in accordance with Bartók, on the tune ‘Hungary, Gracious and Lovely’. However then the circus involves city.

Bartók’s son Peter listened together with his father to a broadcast of Shostakovich’s brand-new Symphony No. 7 and observed his irritation on the infuriating march theme, repeated many occasions over. Right here Bartók sends it up, full with a woodwind giggle and probably the largest raspberry ever blown on a live performance platform. The intermezzo then offers technique to a finale of matchless vitality, the violin traces chasing one another in an exhilarating gallop throughout the open plains. Bartók revised the ending after the premiere; the primary model ends with a downward plunge, the second with an upward rush of pleasure.

You want, for a perfect efficiency, each a technically faultless, magnificent ensemble and a conductor who absolutely identifies with Bartók’s idiom, with all its drama, element, depth and quirkiness. Numerous accounts hit my slicing room flooring when an attention-grabbing interpretation had an orchestra that didn’t match up, or when a Rolls-Royce ensemble’s conductor sounded frankly too snug. There may be not one uninteresting second on this piece, and if a recording doesn’t maintain you enthralled all through, it’s not doing its job.

One of the best recordings of Concerto for Orchestra

Iván Fischer (conductor)

Budapest Competition Orchestra

Philips 476 7255

The Budapest Competition Orchestra recorded the Concerto for Orchestra below its founder and chief conductor Iván Fischer in 2005, and if any up to date account has all of it, it’s this one. First, Fischer observes each element in each letter and spirit, which isn’t at all times the case elsewhere. The opening is rivetingly mysterious, its gathering of forces brilliantly paced, the smooth semiquaver entries within the brass providing Hungarian-style impetus on the primary word (apparently, another Hungarian orchestras keep away from this articulation, maybe intentionally). The allegro shines and dances, whereas the brass enjoying is so radiant that that alone may virtually have secured this model high billing.

The ‘Recreation of {Couples}’ – or ‘Presentation of {Couples}’, as conductor Georg Solti as soon as noticed within the manuscript, full with a quicker metronome mark than was widespread – has a brisk India-rubber bounce, with vivid, characterful articulation that pulls out the person qualities of every instrument. The staccato oboes swimsuit the gamers to a tee, whereas the brass chorale is clean and suavely phrased.

The ‘Elegia’ opens with a chilling sense of tragedy, the oboe keening its lament; that is Bartók in his ‘evening music’ mode, however with many new shadings of emotion. The strings let rip with a dug-in sound that’s harsh in addition to opulent, capturing the extraordinary, impassioned ambiance of this howl of darkness.

The ‘Intermezzo’ begins with a Brahmsy grace, plus beautiful songfulness within the large tune, earlier than the interruption delivers a degree of slapstick that wouldn’t be misplaced accompanying Laurel and Hardy. However the transition again to the melody’s muted iteration throws all of the laughter into perspective; Fischer is attentive right here to a satisfyingly delicate narrative. The finale is stuffed with drive and glitter, with vividly marked articulation and the lengthy crescendos completely paced.

Via Fischer’s steadiness of rhythm, irony and shock, all of the startling originality of the work comes bowling via. Transitions and gear-changes are elegantly labored, cinematically shifting the moods – you possibly can envisage the murmur of a gathering crowd, timber within the wind by the Danube, or just the heady, thrilling power of the Hungarian folks music to which Bartók devoted a lot of his life. And the recorded sound high quality is clear as a whistle, in contrast to my different high selections (beneath), that are historic…



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here