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Orchestral Works of Bartok on Chandos- Miraculous Mandarin Suite; Music for Strings; Percussion and Celesta

Bartok: Orchestral Works - Miraculous Mandarin Suite; Music for Strings; Percussion and Celesta

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The earliest work on the CD is the rarely-heard Four Orchestral Pieces of 1912; it seems steeped in the rich heritage of Richard Strauss and early Schoenberg, often almost filmic in atmosphere and orchestrated with a lavish colour palette. The Miraculous Mandarin, a ballet on a gritty scenario of prostitution and murder, dates from 1927 and proved to be Bartók’s last stage work; this suite captures the whirling chaos of its violence. The centrepiece of the programme is the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta of 1936, which shows the composer at his mature peak, inhabiting a soundworld of extraordinary power and originality, galvanised by terse, characteristically Hungarian rhythms. The tension that Edward Gardner brings to these magnificent scores illuminates them from start to finish. The vivid colours of the Four Orchestral Pieces are full of sensual shimmer and the ballet suite is light-footed enough to remind us that its grisly tale is to be delivered in dance. Gardner and his ebullient Australian orchestra are superb at highlighting the contrasts of taut, aggressive atmospheres and the inwardness of moments of reflection. Listen out for the eloquent clarinet and shuddering low strings inThe Miraculous Mandarin and the startling sliding effects, hushed with a very particular claustrophobic magic, in the third movement of Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. Bartók can and should be as unsettling as this.

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