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Bartok: Kossuth, symphonic poem; Two Portraits, Op. 5; Suite No. 1, Op. 3 / Michael Ludwig, violin. JoAnn Falletta, Buffalo PO

Album Summary

>Bartók, Béla : Kossuth, symphonic poem for orchestra, Sz. 21
>Bartók, Béla : Portraits (2) for violin and orchestra, Op. 5/Sz 37
>Bartók, Béla : Suite for Orchestra no 1, Op. 3/Sz. 31
Performer Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

All three of the works in this program reveal a young composer on the threshold of greatness, serving as his passport to the vast new world of orchestral music prevailing at the beginning of the 20th century. Inspired by the tone poems of Richard Strauss, Bartók's Kossuth dramatically commemorates the struggle for Hungarian independence in 1848 with an alluring and provocative orchestration. The Two Portraits set moods of love and painful heartbreak into stark contrast, while the First Suite is a showcase of symphonic effects which caused a sensation in Vienna at its première in 1905.

The Guardian, 4th September 2014
The Buffalo Philharmonic performances under JoAnn Falletta don't stint on what this music needs: energy and colour.

Gramophone Magazine, November 2014
Falletta's performances of these early Bartok show-stoppers really do raise the roof. Making the First Suite sound compelling is no mean feat, and yet, right from the ebullient opening Allegro vivace, the Buffalo Philharmonic sound fully on course for the challenge.

American Record Guide, January/February 2015
Falletta gives us an able survey of early Bartok. Kossuth, the tone poem celebrating Hungary's national hero, is especially well interpreted. Too many performances of this fascinating Opus 1 rush the music. It's interesting how much the work looks back as well as forward. In one of its tutti passages, a series of upward-sweeping string triplets recalls Liszt's Tasso. The orchestral requirements are head for head nearly identical to Strauss's Heldenleben. Of course, both works honor heroes. The Two Portraits (1907) are in effect small tone poems. Michael Ludwig plays his significant part with good phrasing and an attractive tone. He handles with skill the ethereal closing bars and the stratospheric final cadence. Any section of Suite 1 (1905, rev. 1920) would make a good movement in a symphony. The Buffalo Philharmonic's playing is vigorous and sensitive, and Naxos's sound worthy of its content.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Kleinhaus Music Hall, Buffalo, New York, USA.


Early Bartok shows influences

A young Bela Bartk wrote he was "roused as by a clap of thunder at the first performance of Also sprach Zarathustra.. The work brought me to a pitch of enthusiasm. I felt a reaching out to something new. I threw myself into the study of Strauss."

That inspiration is quite evident in this collection of early orchestral works by Bartok. Kossuth -- Symphonic Poem (1903) is deliberately modeled on Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben, and conveys the same sense of high drama. Bartok is never far from his Hungarian roots, though, and this saga of Kossuth the Freedom Fighter is infused with the flavor of Hungarian folk song.

Bartk's Suite No. 1 for Orchestra, Op. 3 (1905) also shows the strong influence of Strauss, and (to my ears) Wagner. Each short movement seems to be an opportunity for Bartok to show off his skill at orchestrating a particular mood. Although the music sounds more like Bartk's influences than his own voice, it's still dramatic, tuneful, and entertaining.

The Two Portraits, Op. 5 were completed in 1908. Bartk had composed his first violin concerto for Stefi Geyer, who spurned his advances (but kept the manuscript). These two works for violin and orchestra contain remnants of that concerto, plus other music intended for Geyer. The heartbreak behind their composition comes through in Bartk's post-romantic music.

Violinist Michael Ludwig performs admirably in the Portraits. He conveys the raw emotion behind the music without making it sound maudlin.

Maestro Falletta isn't afraid to revel in the richness of this music, and the Buffalo Philharmonic has the chops to pull it off. The warm, full sound of the ensemble is well-suited to young Bartk's music, bringing out the similarities between the composer and his influences.
Submitted on 10/10/14 by RGraves321 
On The Cusp Of Genius
When one ponders the legacy of Bela Bartok, several seminal masterpieces immediately spring to mind: Concerto For Orchestra; Bluebeards Castle, Music For Strings, Percussion and Celesta, The Miraculous Mandarin, to name but a few. Unlike Athena emerging fully formed from the forehead of Zeus, Bartok gradually honed his highly personal style over several decades by means of emulation, experimentation and sheer imagination. This disc represents the journeyman phase in the composers career. All of the works included here are meticulously worked out, technically proficient and quite appealing. Glimpses of things to come permeate the music. With the exception of the Two Portraits (especially the heart breaking #1, beautifully performed by Michael Ludwig, the departing concertmaster of the Buffalo P.O.), nothing here ignites the senses as does the mature Bartok. Nonetheless, Falletta and her orchestra do a commendable job in underscoring the sundry merits of this youthful material with taut, robust readings. Producer Tim Handleys tight miking projects a realistic orchestral image with a surplus of detail and low frequency energy. The outstanding liner notes make very absorbing reading.
Submitted on 11/21/14 by Allen Cohen 
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Works Details

>Béla Bartók (Composer) (1881 - 1945) : Kossuth, symphonic poem for orchestra, Sz. 21
  • Conductor: JoAnn Falletta
  • Ensemble: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Notes: Kleinhaus Music Hall, Buffalo, New York, USA (11/22/2013-11/23/2013)
  • Running Time: 19 min. 51 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1903

>Béla Bartók (Composer) (1881 - 1945) : Portraits (2) for violin and orchestra, Op. 5/Sz 37
  • Performer: Michael Ludwig (Violin)
  • Conductor: JoAnn Falletta
  • Ensemble: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Notes: Kleinhaus Music Hall, Buffalo, New York, USA (11/22/2013-11/23/2013)
  • Running Time: 12 min. 41 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1907-1911

>Béla Bartók (Composer) (1881 - 1945) : Suite for Orchestra no 1, Op. 3/Sz. 31
  • Conductor: JoAnn Falletta
  • Ensemble: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Notes: Kleinhaus Music Hall, Buffalo, New York, USA (10/19/2013-10/20/2013)
  • Running Time: 7 min. 23 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1905