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Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, July 2012

The consistent ferocity and audacity of the orchestration makes The Miraculous Mandarin a surefire orchestral spectacle…Naxos here reissues the 1 November 1988 inscription by Gerard Schwarz, a powerhouse in its own right, certainly commanding our attention at No. 6, “The girl begins a hesitant dance…” with its polyrhythmic and polytonal welter of sound, particularly in Schwarz’s favored brass section. Section 11, in which the terrified goons see the body of the mandarin glow, has the contribution of the Seattle Symphony Chorale to accompany the agonized strings and battery, a new effect to me, since the Rochester Philharmonic experience had not utilized a chorus.

Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra (1944) remains among the composer’s last completed compositions…Schwarz (rec. 6, 8 December 1989) takes the five movements at traditional tempi, celebrating Bartók’s rethinking of the concerto grosso style, especially the scherzando second movement’s arrangement of paired instruments. Schwarz keeps a firm clear hand on Bartók’s counterpoint, the alternation and blending of orchestral choirs kept in a fine equilibrium. Perhaps not so purely virtuosic as the Reiner inscription nor as poetically nuanced as that by Fricsay, the Schwarz reading still generates a clarion potency we might recall from Stokowski’s reading in Houston. Schwarz gives good speed to the “Presentation of the couples” movement, the snare drum having provided the initial motor element. The Elegia projects the eerie “night music” sensibility united to Magyar folk-song motifs and scales. The famed Intermezzo interrotto sings bucolically until the gaudy fanfare parodies the Shostakovich Leningrad Symphony with effects most vaudevillian, a virtual “raspberry” tossed off by the brass. For the last movement, Pesante; Presto, Schwarz plays the extended version at full, often contrapuntal, moto perpetuo throttle. A fine testament to a first rate American ensemble and its spirited conductor. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, May 2012

…the Concerto for Orchestra… justly remains Bartok’s best loved purely orchestral work…because its zestful scoring calls for the sections of the orchestra to be deployed in virtuosic and soloistic ways. There’s committed playing by the Seattle Symphony in the Allegro vivace opening movement and the Presto finale, a whirlwind in perpetual motion. My favorite moment, which comes across beautifully in this recording, is the sunny outburst of warm lyricism that emerges suddenly and unexpectedly in the Intermezzo, right after Bartok has had his little joke sending up a jaunty march theme Shostakovich had used in his “Leningrad” Symphony, thereby giving the Russian the musical equivalent of the “razzberries.” © 2012 Audio Video Club of Atlanta Read complete review, April 2012

Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony (with the Seattle Symphony Chorus in part of the work’s climactic scene) do a fine job with the rattling sounds and ever-changing rhythms of the work: this Naxos recording, of a 1988 performance originally released by Delos, has held up very well indeed. So has the 1989 performance of Bartók’s last completed major work, the Concerto for Orchestra, which also gets a rousing, even exuberant reading here. All in all, this is a highly satisfying performance… © 2012 Read complete review

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