Bartók: The Wooden Prince
As with their earlier Bartók releases, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop gives a fine, colourful and insightful account. The opening, in which Bartók essentially re-imagines Das Rheingold, grows majestically from its initial murmur, and the ebb and flow of the dances is well paced. lvan Fischer’s Budapest account (Philips) is more ethereal in the mystical passages and more playful elsewhere, but it is only available on a three-disc set and, even without a filler, Alsop’s account belies its budget price.
Marin Alsop’s recording joins the club of favorite Princes…Naxos’s cover notes similarities between the opening to Wooden Prince and Wagner’s Reingold. Alsop’s sweep and the sheen of the Bournemouth strings reinforce that observation…Alsop really excels in ‘Great Apotheosis’. This is the emotional center of the ballet, and she makes more of its color and passion than anyone.
Roger Hecht, American Record Guide
18th August 2008
Marin Alsop’s six years as the principal conductor of the BSO end this May, and they have been an eminent success. The orchestra is playing as well as ever, and Alsop has broadened its recorded repertoire with works by Adams, Bernstein, Glass, Takemitsu and Weill. This muscular performance of Bartók’s expressionistic ballet score The Wooden Prince (1917) follows fine recordings of Bluebeard’s Castle and The Miraculous Mandarin, confirming Alsop as a hugely compelling advocate for this music. She relishes the work’s extravagances and her reading is impressive for its sense of architecture.
Stephen Pettitt, Sunday Times (UK)
Among the valuable things music director Marin Alsop brought with her to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was a long-standing connection to Naxos, one of the top-selling classical record labels in the world. She has covered a wide variety of repertoire for the company in collaborations with several orchestras.
With the release of the first Alsop/BSO recording for Naxos, the start of a projected series devoted to Dvorák, the orchestra is front and centre, the better to signal forcefully its re-emergence in the recording market. This CD, which includes the Symphony No. 9 (From the New World) and Symphonic Variations, also sends a strong message that Alsop and the BSO are capable of admirable music-making together.
Alsop has the Ninth unfurling with plenty of fire and lyrical power. The orchestra, recorded live at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall last June, sounds terrific, with a full-bodied string tone, lots of vivid colouring in the woodwinds and a good bite from the brass. All in all, a solid, engaging performance.
Things are even more effective in the Symphonic Variations. Alsop brings out the delectable play of light and shadow in the eventful score, all the while providing a lively pulse, and she gets warmly expressive playing from her musicians.