Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste - Mälkki

Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste - Mälkki

BIS  BIS-2378

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Susanna Mälkki (conductor)

On two highly praised discs, Susanna Malkki and her players in the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra have released recordings of Bela Bartok's three scores for the stage - The Miraculous Mandarin, The Wooden Prince and Bluebeard's Castle, all written before 1918. The team now takes on two of his late orchestral masterpieces. Composed in 1936 for the Basel Chamber Orchestra, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta is one of the purest examples of Bartok's mature style, with its synthesis of folk music, classicism and modernism. One immediately striking feature is the unusual instrumentation: two string orchestras seated on opposite sides of the stage, with percussion and keyboard instruments in the middle and towards the back.

In 1940, during the Second World War, Bartok emigrated to the USA, where he initially found it difficult to compose. In 1943 he received a prestigious commission from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, however, and in less than eight weeks he composed the Concerto for Orchestra. In it he worked with contrasts between different sections of the orchestra, and the soloistic treatment of these groupings was his reason for calling the work a concerto rather than a symphony.

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Comments (2)

Comment by Tony Reif - November 6, 2021 (1 of 2)

An absolute rave from David Hurwitz:

How's the sound?

Comment by Mark Werlin - November 30, 2021 (2 of 2)

Sound quality is excellent, consistent with the two earlier Bartók BIS SACDs conducted by Susanna Mälkki. Engineer for all three recordings is Enno Mäemets, who has recorded for Ondine and Alba. In the Music for Strings... the entrance of the celeste is very subtle, the instrument is not spotlighted. Opening of the 2nd movement is suitably dramatic with wide separation of string sections. Mic placement is neither too close nor too distant. The Helsinki Music Centre is only 10 years old, a contemporary design. Its large hall seats 1700; all seats are raked, there is no orchestra floor.

This brief article on the influence of hall acoustics on listener emotional response mentions the Centre:

Full text originally published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America:

Addendum: Excerpts from the cited full article that might interest classical music SACD listeners.

"Some listeners prefer the strong and enveloping sound that is traditionally associated with the shoebox halls. In contrast, others tend to find a well-articulated sound, often provided by halls without prominent reflecting surfaces or rich reverberance, more important. ...[a seat close to the orchestra in a non-shoebox hall, such as the Helsinki Centre] has a highly articulated sound with a relatively strong bass, thus the preference for articulation of some subjects."

Many of the classical music SACDs that I review for this site, and others that are in my collection, are of contemporary classical music. The recording venues are often new spaces of non-traditional design that emphasize a "highly articulated sound", such as the Helsinki Music Centre. It is not surprising that rigorous tests found a correlation between some listeners' subjective experience of a musical performance and the acoustic properties of the performance venue. I have experienced deeper, more visceral responses to performances in Weill Hall, a very "live" shoebox design ( than in the more subdued and diffuse acoustic of Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.