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  Naxos -
  Bartok: The Miraculous Mandarin - Alsop
  Bartok: The Miraculous Mandarin (complete ballet), Dance Suite, Hungarian Pictures

Bournemouth Symphony Chorus & Orchestra
Marin Alsop (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:
  Recorded on 19th and 20th July 2004, at The Concert Hall, Lighthouse, Poole, England
Producer: Andrew Walton (K&A Productions Ltd.)
Sound Engineer: Mike Clements

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Reviews: 2

Review by Ivymike October 10, 2005 (9 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
This is the work a friend of mine once claimed to use to clear unwanted guests from his house--fifteen minutes into the work and the place would be deserted!

To those of us who truly admire this work this is a welcome recording. Though not in the very highest, rarest atmosphere of performance--those, in my opinion, of the Sony/Boulez, Fischer on Philips(perhaps the very best of the lot), Chailly on Decca and Abbado on Deutsche Grammophon--this is still quite the performance. Alsop's reading is certainly violent in all the right places, but she lacks the touches of humor that Fischer brings out; listen to the first seduction game on Fischer's disc and clearly hear the awkward, humorous, clumsily amorous advances of the shabby old rake. The humor just doesn't come through here (or, for that matter, in any of the other versions I've encountered.) It might be of interest to those who are very familiar with this score that the version recorded here is unlike any of the dozen or so others in my collection in that there are several repeats and what sound like bridges designed for the stage work.

The sound is excellent. The 2-channel red-book and DSD layers both sound superb--dynamic, with a very wide and deep soundstage and a pleasing hall sound that's particularly appealing with the woodwinds. Percussion, so important in this score, is "all that". Listen to the fff whack on the tympani just after the vagabonds leap out the rob the Mandarin and the f crashes on the tam-tam as they strip him of his raiments. Switching to the five-channel DSD layer presents an interesting sound: the ambience spreads around all the way, and the width of the soundstage in the front is increased and spreads beyond the outside edges of the front channels. The center channel seems of lesser importance here; the mixing on the 2-channel version is excellent and one isn't even aware of the lack of center fill.

The accompanying works are decent filler, but I'm not crazy about Alsop's reading of the Dance Suite, my reference recordings of which are the early digital Solti version on London and the 1958 Mercury version conducted by Dorati. Both of these are shudderingly powerful and Alsop's seems very weak indeed in comparison.

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Review by dschawv August 25, 2005 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I would agree with the previous review. This is a beautiful recording. The orchestra executes it well. Yet, I find there is not enough growl and anger in it. When one compares, you might find Chailly on Decca, Boulez on Sony, and Ivan Fisher with Budapest better.
In fact, I really like the Fisher recording the most. Idiomatic playing, real growl and expression as well.
I wish they would release Solti's recording in SACD. Typical fire and drive from him.
Great sound, good performance, but left me wanting more.
The other alternative is a recording by Kent Nagano that is quite good too.

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Works: 3  

Béla Bartók - Dance Suite, Sz. 77 BB 86
Béla Bartók - Hungarian Sketches, Sz. 97 BB 103
Béla Bartók - The Miraculous Mandarin (complete ballet), Sz. 73 BB 82