Bartok and Kodaly - SCO - Sunday Herald

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra's already considerable reputation for excellence can only be further enhanaced with this latest recording. Under the direction of conductor laureate Sir Charles Mackerras, the orchestra is in virtuoso form in this programme of 20th-century Hungarian classics.

Bartók's vivid and dramatic Music For Strings, Percussion & Celeste is coupled with his faintly retrospective Divertimento, and Kodály's not-so-frequently-heard Dances of Galanta. Both composers were closely associated in the research and collection of their native folksong and that of neighbouring Romania, Slovakia and Yugoslavia. As a result, their music brims with its influence - rhythmic, percussive, dissonant, alive with colour and invention.

Bartók's most significant work for chamber orchestra, Music For Strings, Percussion And Celeste, dating from 1936, is the main work here. Mackerras draws a performance of real authority from the superb players of the SCO. Mystery, intensity and irresistible energy are brilliantly captured in a truly impressive display of concentrated playing. Dances of Galanta, inspired by Kodálys memories of Romani bands visiting the town of his childhood, is a delightfully effective piece. Beautiful woodwind solos are highlights in a performance of splendid dash and character. Divertimento For Strings, with its two lively outer movements and very sombre central adagio, combines subtlety and refinement with pace and energy.

These are thrillingly alive performances, persuasive in every department and superbly recorded.

Sunday Herald
29 August 2004