Bartok – Divertimento; Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste; Romanian Folk Dances

Les Violons du Roy
Whole Note

Like a giant boa constrictor crawling out of its lair in the primordial dawn so begins Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and ppp with an incredibly long sustained crescendo fugato, twisting and turning with more and more voices added until the climax in the middle of the movement, then quickly receding into the darkness.  This unusual and extremely difficult fugue is a real test for the orchestra, the conductor and recording technology but in a good performance, like this one, the effect is literally shattering.

Les Violons du Roy, a remarkable group of Quebec string players only 15 in number, was formed in 1984 to play the Baroque repertoire, and since then acquired a good reputation in Canada, the US and Europe with their virtuosity and dedication.  More recently, under Jean-Marie Zeitouni they branched out into the 19th century and modern repertoire as well.

The most ambitious piece on this disc is the aforementioned Music..., a work of genius from Bartok's middle period when he was most influenced by the West and experimenting with new forms and ideas.  It is a bold, brutal work but formidably inventive and imaginative especially in its handling of the orchestra.  I give great credit to this little group which plays with great conviction, virtuosity and sounds like a much bigger orchestra.  The Divertimento also comes off very well and the Roumanian Dances in the conductor's orchestration sound atmospheric, incisively rhythmic and full of verve.  Excellently recorded, this CD should not take back seat to any other recording of these pieces.