BARTOK: Viola Concerto / Two Pictures, Sz. 46

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Bela Bartok(1881-1945)

Concerto for Viola andOrchestra, (revised edition)

Two Pictures, Op.10Sz. 46

Concerto for Viola andOrchestra, Sz. 120 (completed by Tibor Serly)

Tibor Serly(1901-1978)

Rhapsody for Viola andOrchestra

Bela Bartok arrived in New York on 30th October, 1940 and remained inAmerica until his death on 26th September, 1945. These final five years werenot a particularly happy time for him, having left his beloved Hungary as arefugee, fleeing the impending Nazi occupation, and being immersed in a cultureboth foreign and not entirely palatable to him. In spite of the hardshipsendured during this time he wrote his Concerto for Orchestra, Sonata forsolo violin and the Third Piano Concerto. In addition he left behindan unfinished Viola Concerto, which had been commissioned by theScottish viola virtuoso, William Primrose. The Hungarian-born composer, violistand conductor, Tibor Serly, was asked by the Bartok family to bring the work toa publishable form. This task he undertook between 1945 and 1949, resulting inthe version that has been widely performed for the last half century. Since thefirst performance in December 1949 it has remained a controversial work withopinions ranging from its outright dismissal as a work of Bartok, through to itbeing a fine, but incomplete example of his final period. Over the last twentyyears the scholarly research of violists, notably Atar Arad, Csaba Erdelyi andthe present writer, has led to significant amendments to the work of TiborSerly which, while executed in performances, have not been published owing tothe restrictions of copyright. It was with considerable pleasure that the violacommunity welcomed the release in 1995, by Peter Bartok, the composer's son, ofthe manuscript sketches in a facsimile edition, prefaced by the acclaimedHungarian Bartok scholar, Laszlo Somfai. Inassociation with this release, Boosey & Hawkes published a new revision,prepared by Nelson Dellamaggiore under Peter Bartok's supervision, with violistPaul Neubauer as editorial adviser. The question which immediately comes tomind when producing a double recording such as this is as to what thedifference is between the two version. In response one must point out that manyof the changes are so subtle that even veteran performers of the work may notimmediately perceive them. In particular these types of changes relate tosubtle differences in orchestration and note corrections in the orchestraltexture. To those who already know this work well, the more obvious changes arethe numerous corrected notes in the solo viola part, comprising over 180changed pitches and well over 200 notes moved to different octaves. Theconnoisseur will also detect the removal of some thirty bars which were addedby Tibor Serly for reasons he felt were well justified The other features, whichmay perhaps be viewed more in the realm of the individual performer'sinterpretation, are those relating to speeds of the various passages and thechoices of dynamics. These differences could, of course, be present in twodifferent performances of the same version. To the listener who is not alreadyfamiliar with the work, the differences will more likely be noticed in theoverall flavour of the versions.

Obviously the above-mentioned aspects all contribute to the resultingeffect but the one remaining and not insignificant aspect is that of bowing andarticulation. For several decades we have become accustomed to the characterproduced by the suggestions of Tibor Serly and William Primrose, suggestions whichnow are significantly challenged by violists who have studied the sketches indepth. Owing to the lack of indication from Bartok of any articulations, thisremains the one area in which each performer will continue to establish his orher own interpretation, and in which one has arguably the most scope toestablish the overall character of the work. If the performer follows themarkings as indicated by Tibor Serly and William Primrose or NelsonDellamaggiore and Paul Neubauer, then it should be noted that these are theinterpretations of those musicians, and not necessarily those of Bartok. Thereare four very obvious differences worthy of a special mention. First, in thelinking section between the end of the first movement and the beginning of the secondmovement, Serly's bassoon solo has been removed. Secondly, in the middlesection of the second movement the woodwind flourishes, added by Serly, havealso been removed. Thirdly, the link from the second movement to the Finale hasbeen extended in the new version, based on material in the sketch unused bySerly. Finally, Serly's four-bar insertion of the full orchestra, just beforethe final ascending scale of the solo viola, has been removed, creating a morefluent ending to the work. While the new revision has been welcomed, it has,along with the facsimile, given the signal to violists that this work is nolonger an exclusive preserve, that the full story of this very popular concertois now available, and that the search for the definitive rendition willcontinue to challenge musicians well into the future.

Bela Bartok's Two Pictures, Op. 10, Viragzas ('In FullFlower') and A fulu tanca ('The Village Dance') were written in Budapestin August 1910, transcribed for piano, but not performed in the orchestralversion until 26th February, 1913. While in many respects Bartok had alreadydeveloped his own distinctive style, these works represent the significantinfluence of Debussy, whose music he had become acquainted with only threeyears earlier. Together with Two Portraits (1907-8) and Four Pieces (1912),the Two Pictures mark the end of his writing for full orchestra (exceptfor stage works), until 1923-24, when he produced his Dance Suite. Ofhis orchestral works, the Two Pictures have one of the more extravagantrequirements for players with the usual complement augmented by an extra ofeach wind, four trumpets and a celeste. As the titles suggest, the firstmovement is a slow atmospheric piece, conjuring up images perhaps of thevineyards of the French countryside and the second is a lively dance with stronglyaccented off-beats and a distinct folky element. In Budapest the TwoPictures was the most performed work of Bartok during his lifetime.

Tibor Serly's association with Bela Bartok was for him both a blessingand a curse Without doubt, his efforts to make Bartok's music more accessible,by arranging selected works for combinations of instruments, brought him moreattention than did his own compositions. For the most part his effort, werehighly praised, both by Bartok and by colleagues. It was in fact the ViolaConcerto of Bartok which brought him so much anguish. It was after all theonly work of his mentor that he worked on which was incomplete, and it wasthrough his efforts to bridge the gap and produce a completed work, that heencountered his only real criticism. This soured his attitude to musicologistsand critics in general and did not enhance his own reputation as a composer.

However, as his Rhapsody for Viola and Orchestra, written in the years1946- 48, demonstrates, Serly was a composer of some stature in his own rightand deserves to be remembered as such. Of particular interest with the Rhapsodyis the fact that it was produced in exactly the same period that he wasreconstructing Bartok's Viola Concerto. While there is no obviousborrowing from the Viola Concerto in evidence, Serly did freelyacknowledge the source of several Hungarian folk-songs from Bartok's pianotranscriptions For Children. The work consists of small and larger excerptsof these pieces, with connecting quasi-imp
Item number 8554183
Barcode 636943418321
Release date 12/01/1999
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Xiao, Hong-Mei
Xiao, Hong-Mei
Composers Bartok, Bela
Serly, Tibor
Bartok, Bela
Serly, Tibor
Conductors Kovacs, Janos
Kovacs, Janos
Orchestras Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra
Producers Benedek, Tamas
Benedek, Tamas
Disc: 1
Rhapsody for Viola and Orchestra
1 I. Allegro moderato
2 II. Lento
3 III. (Finale) Allegretto
4 In Full Flower: Poco adagio
5 Village Dance: Allegro
6 I. Moderato
7 II. Adagio religioso
8 III. Allegro vivace
9 Rhapsody for Viola and Orchestra
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