BARTOK: Concerto for Orchestra / Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta

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Bela Bartok (1881 - 1945)

Concerto for Orchestra

Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
The Hungarian composer Bela Bartok was born in 1881 in anarea that now forms part of Romania. His father, director of an agricultural college, wasa keen amateur musician, while it was from his mother that he received his early pianolessons. The death of his father in 1889 led to a less settled existence, as his motherresumed work as a teacher, eventually settling in the Slovak capital of Sratislava (theHungarian Pozsony), where Bartok passed his early adolescence, counting among hisschool-fellows the composer Erno Dohnanyi. Offered the chance of musical training inVienna, like Dohnanyi he chose instead Budapest, where he won a considerable reputation asa pianist, being appointed to the teaching staff of the Academy of Music in 1907. At thesame time he developed a deep interest, shared with his compatriot Zoltan Kodaly, in thefolk-music of his own and adjacent countries, later extended as far as Anatolia, where hecollaborated in research with the Turkish composer Adnan Sayg??n.

As a composer Bartok found acceptance much more difficult,particularly in his own country, which was, in any case, beset by political troubles, whenthe brief post-war left-wing government of Bela Kun was replaced by the reactionaryregime of Admiral Horthy. Meanwhile his reputation abroad grew, particularly among thosewith an interest in contemporary music, and his success both as a pianist and as acomposer, coupled with dissatisfaction at the growing association between the Horthygovernment and National Socialist Germany, led him in 1940 to emigrate to the UnitedStates of America.

In his last years, after briefly held teaching appointments atColumbia and Harvard, Bartok suffered from increasing ill-health, and from poverty whichthe conditions of exile in war-time could do nothing to alleviate. He died in straitenedcircumstances in 1945, leaving a new Viola Concerto incomplete and a Third Piano Concertomore nearly finished.

The Concerto for Orchestra is among the composer's last works.

It was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in 1943 in memory of thedistinguished conductor Sergey Koussevitzky's wife Nathalie and received its firstperformance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Koussevitzky in December 1944. The workdisplays the virtuoso talents of different sections of the orchestra, using devices oftextural and dynamic contrast, thus justifying its title.

Bartok himself wrote of the gradual transition of the workfrom the severity of the first movement, to the third, with its song of death and to thefinale with its reassertion of life. The second movement varies this progress by treatingpairs of instruments in different harmonic intervals, a light-hearted interlude.

Contrapuntal possibilities are explored in the first movement, while the third has the airof a folk-song, coupled with the mood of night-music that was part of the composer'smusical language. A fragment of the Seventh Symphony of Shostakovich interrupts theIntermezzo, by way of parody, while the last movement contrasts the perpetual motion ofthe violins with a fugal subject.

Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta was writtenin 1936, commissioned by Paul Sacher, founder and conductor of the Basle ChamberOrchestra, whose patronage has been so important in music of the twentieth century. It wasfirst performed by the orchestra under its conductor in Basle on 21st January 1937. Thework is scored for two groups of strings ranged either side of percussion instruments thatinclude side-drum, snare-drum, cymbals, tam-tam, bass drum, timpani and xylophone, withcelesta, harp and piano. The first of the four movements is opened by muted violas with aslow chromatic melody, imitated by the violins on the right of the conductor and then byboth groups of cellos, followed by an upper violin part. Each entry is on alternate upperor lower notes of the circle of fifths, a further example of the meticulous symmetry ofthe work that has led to plausible theories of mathematical analysis, for which thereseems considerable justification. Here the successive entries lead to a central entry on Eflat, the climax of the movement, after which the process is reversed. The secondmovement, thematically related to the seminal first movement theme, contrasts the twostring groups in its opening and is broadly in sonata form, with exposition, developmentand final recapitulation. The Adagio, another example of the composer's night-music mood,opens with xylophone and timpani, joined by tremolo cellos and double basses, through thesound of which the first viola melody emerges. The movement is constructed sectionally,each of the six sections in complex relationship with each other and with the motifs thatmake up the opening theme of the whole work. The final movement, in form essentially arondo, introduced by two clear notes from the timpani, continues with a pattern ofpizzicato string chords, arpeggiated downwards, against which the second group of stringsintroduce a Bulgarian folk-dance rhythm with a melody derived from the opening theme, herepresented in ternary form. The movement ends stridently enough, reaching a final consonantA major chord.

BRT Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels

The history of the BRT Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels goesback to the birth of the Belgian Radio in the 1930's. After the well-known musicologistand promoter of contemporary music, Paul Collaer, had become head of the Music Departmentof the Belgian Radio, the orchestra, under its conductor Franz Andre, gained a world-widereputation for its interpretations of the latest compositions of Stravinsky, Berg,Bartok, Hindemith and other 20th century composers. The orchestra gave the first Europeanperformance of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra in Paris and the first West Europeanperformance of the Fourth Symphony by Shostakovich, and has, over the years, worked withmany leading conductors, from Pierre Boulez, Paul Hindemith and Darius Milhaud to LorinMaazel and Zubin Mehta.

In 1978 the Radio Symphony Orchestra was dissolved and both theFlemish and the French Radio divisions set up their own symphony orchestras. The Flemishnetwork soon had a new orchestra, the BRT Philharmonic, with some 90 musicians and FernandTerby became its principal conductor from 1978 to 1988. Since 1988, Alexander Rahbari hasbeen the principal conductor and musical director of the new BRT Philharmonic Orchestra.

Alexander Rahbari

Alexander Rahbari was born in Iran in 1948 and was trained as aconductor at the Vienna Music Academy as a pupil of von Einem, Swarowsky and?ûsterreicher. On his return to Iran he was appointed director of the Teheran Conservatoryof Music and took a leading position in the cultural development of his country. In 1977he moved to Europe, winning first prize in the Besan?ºon International Conductors'Competition and the Geneva silver medal. In 1979 he was invited by Herbert von Karajan toconduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and served as von Karajan's assistant inSalzburg. Rahbari's subsequent career has been highly successful, with concerts throughoutthe world and engagements in leading opera-houses. He is Principal Guest Conductor of theCzech Philharmonic Orchestra and has conducted major orchestras throughout Europe. inJapan and in Canada. Alexander Rahbari is now a citizen of Austria.

Item number 8550261
Barcode 4891030502611
Release date 12/01/2000
Category Wind
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Bartok, Bela
Bartok, Bela
Conductors Rahbari, Alexander
Rahbari, Alexander
Orchestras Belgian Radio and Television Philharmonic Orchestr
Belgian Radio and Television Philharmonic Orchestr
Producers Appenheimer, Gunter
Appenheimer, Gunter
Disc: 1
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Sz. 106
1 I. Introduzione: Andante non troppo - Allegro viva
2 II. Giuoco delle coppie: Allegretto scherzando
3 III. Elegia: Andante non troppo
4 IV. Intermezzo interrotto: Allegretto
5 V. Finale: Presto
6 I. Andante tranquillo
7 II. Allegro
8 III. Adagio
9 IV. Allegro molto
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