Bartók
Concerto for Orchestra, Dance Suite, Rhapsodies
James Ehnes v, Bergen Philharmonic/Gardner
Chandos CHSA5189 (SACD)

Four years ago Edward Gardner’s recording of Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite (and more) with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was released on Chandos to great acclaim – Limelight called it “incandescent”. While the orchestra is different – here Gardner records with the Bergen Philharmonic, where he is principal conductor – the same vibrant flare that made that disc compelling is evident in this recording of the Hungarian composer’s Concerto for Orchestra, Rhapsodies and Dance Suite.

Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra is a showcase of colour, painted vividly by Gardner and orchestra. The lower strings have a smooth, inky depth, the brass a keen-edged brightness while the bassoons rollick playfully in the second movement. The multi-hued winds coruscate and flicker in the Elegia and the strings are lush in the Intermezzo. The Finale is imbued with a fierce brilliance, Gardner keeping the energy taut and rhythms precise – as he does throughout the album.

Canadian violinist James Ehnes brings spark and complex tone to the pair of Rhapsodies for violin and orchestra, which – against an ensemble shot-through with textural cimbalom – he dispatches with gritty yet refined panache.

Gardner closes with the Dance Suite, an array of clearly
rendered voices brought together in driving, whirling dances that ends this satisfying disc with a bang.


Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine