&ldquoAs Alsop faced the cellos and drew from them the most tremendously shaped phrases with every inflection of her baton, you were aware of being in the presence of greatness.&rdquo

Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra /
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Naxos 8.572486
Buy now on iTunes

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s admirable recordings with music director Alsop on the Naxos label have so far included a vibrant cycle of Dvorák symphonies and a sensational, Grammy-nominated account of Bernstein’s “Mass.” Now comes a burst of Bartók.

Alsop…gets to the heart of the matter, negotiates tricky rhythms expertly and ensures that colorful details of orchestration get to the fore.

The BSO is playing even more cohesively nowadays than when the recording was made in 2009. Still, the engineers at Meyheroff Symphony Hall captured the BSO in sturdy form. The ensemble delivers the propulsive portions, especially the snarky Intermezzo and boisterous finale, with a good deal of bite, and does sensitive work in the rest.

The standout on the disc is Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. This fascinating, intricately layered score inspires a terrific, involving performance. The conductor’s attention to atmosphere and subtle detail pays off handsomely.

The BSO strings produce a darkly beautiful tone that intensifies the moodiness of the first and third movements; their playing in the wild finale really sizzles. The percussion and keyboard players make their every contribution count.

Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun (USA)

18th May 2012

Marin Alsop’s new recording with her Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is a cracker…Alsop’s strength is her honesty, by which I mean something precise. Her different recordings, with the RSNO, Bournemouth Symphony and her Brahms Symphonies with the London Phil have been characterised by a consistent feature: she plays it straight and never goes for a quick fix…In the Concerto for Orchestra she minimises display: the atmospherics shimmer without show, the electric rhythms grip without flamboyance and, in the brass fugal passage in the first movement, the BSO strings come pouring in with overwhelming effect. The Game Of Pairs is wit incarnate, and Alsop understates the parody in the Shostakovich quote: she does not caricature it. Recommended.

Michael Turnelty, The Herald (Scotland)

6th May 2012

Two quintessential Bartók works in fine performances, and at an irresistible price. The Concerto for Orchestra, in particular, is a piece that suits Marin Alsop down to the ground, and one that allows her to put her Baltimore players through their paces…Alsop responds to all these facets of the piece with both intelligence and vitality, producing a vivid performance.

Misha DOnat, BBC Music Magazine (UK), 4 stars

june 2012