"What is the best way for a composer to reap the full benefits of his studies in peasant music? It is to assimilate the idiom of peasant music so completely that he is able to forget all about it and use it as his musical mother tongue. "
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra, etc
(Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Fritz Reiner, conductor)
Since its release on LP in the mid-1950s, Fritz Reiner's rendition of the Concerto for Orchestra has stood as the standard against which all other recordings of the work are measured. Even after all these years, the recording remains just as convincing and authoritative. Reiner's superb control of his orchestra and of Bartók's rhythms and textures is still unsurpassed, even by dozens of subsequent conductors in the digital age. Likewise, the Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta shows just what an incredible ensemble the Chicago Symphony was under Reiner's direction. This umpteenth reissue, in RCA's Living Stereo series, promises to be the one to have, its sonics noticeably improved over the earlier CD release in 1989. (review by David Vernier)
Bartók: Piano Concertos
(Yefim Bronfman; Los Angeles Philharmonic; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor)
This is the recording of Bartók's piano concertos the world has been waiting for. Yefim Bronfman conquers not only the tremendous technical difficulties of the music, but also the widely varying moods, from the violence of the First Concerto through the otherworldly calm of the Third. Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic through the extremely difficult orchestral writing without a misstep, contributing his own powerful impulse to the music while seconding Bronfman's ideas. The recording is nearly ideal in its clarity, balance, and dynamics. It's hard to find a more satisfying CD of any music in the current catalogs. (review by Leslie Gerber)
Bartók: The 6 String Quartets
(Edward Dusinberre, András [cello] Fejér, et al; Takács String Quartet)
If chamber music suggests merely sedate and timid pleasures, let the Takács Quartet guide you through the profound experience that this medium can convey--above all in the hands of a composer as rich in imagination and innovative in temperament as Béla Bartók. In some ways his cycle of string quartets traces not only his personal creative evolution but the deeply tragic zeitgeist of half a century as well. The Takács Quartet plays with an unfaltering sense for the lifeblood of this music in performances that are both gutsy and ethereal. (Review by Thomas May)
Herzog Blaubarts Burg, etc
( Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hertha Töpper, et al; Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra, Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus, et al.;Ferenc Fricsay, conductor)
Includes 'Bluebeard's Castle'