Bartok: Concerto for orchestra, etc./Reiner SACD

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 9

The Living Stereo SACDs are here, and they sound fabulous. Here is a case in point. Careful remastering outclasses all previous releases of this music, even when played back in standard stereo. In SACD format there seems to be a minimum of gimmickry at work: the Concerto for Orchestra is two-channel, the remaining works are three (right, left, and middle), with no attempt to artificially create a surround effect. Best of all, the hideous dropout at the climax of the first movement of Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, present on all previous issues, has been repaired, while elsewhere the music leaps out of the speakers as if newly minted. Sonically this was not quite the best of the Reiner Living Stereo recordings, being just a bit lacking in body and bass compared with, say, the Pictures at an Exhibition–but by any measure it’s still an impressive technical achievement for its era.

I also have never warmed to Reiner’s recordings of the Concerto as others have, finding it a touch cold and lacking in personality, especially in the slow movement and finale. My reference recordings remain the sadly unavailable Kubelik/Boston (DG), the Bernstein (Sony), or the thrilling new Kocsis on Hungaroton (available in SACD multichannel format). But regardless of your personal preference, the playing of the Chicago Symphony is indisputably fantastic, and the two other works receive performances as close to definitive as makes no difference. Reiner’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, in particular, never has been surpassed in terms of sheer urgency and rhythmic bite. I can recommend this release unhesitatingly both to SACD fans and to those still listening in standard stereo. Nearly 50 years after its initial recording date (1955), the pleasures of listening haven’t diminished a bit. Nice packaging too. [9/17/2004]

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Concerto: Kubelik (DG), Kocsis (Hungaroton), Bernstein (Sony), MSPC: This One

BÉLA BÁRTOK - Concerto for Orchestra; Music for Strings, Percussion, & Celesta; Hungarian Sketches

  • RCA - 82876 61390 2
  • SACD

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