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  PentaTone Classics -
  PTC 5186 056
  Britten: Frank Bridge Variations etc. - Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
  Benjamin Britten: Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge Op. 10, Karl Amadeus Hartmann: Concerto funèbre, Béla Bartók: Divertimento

Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Gordan Nikolic (leader)
Track listing:
  Classical - Chamber
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 1

Reviews: 4 show all

Review by fotodan July 26, 2005 (12 of 15 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I took a chance on this one -- not having read a word about it. But I've wanted a recording of the Britten for some time and the Bartok Divertimento is one of my favorite works for strings. This is my introduction to the music of Hartmann. I didn't have any qualms about the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, nor in Pentatone's qualifications, but I knew nothing about conductor and violinist Gordan Nikolic.

So it was a wonderful surprise to hear absolutely superb performances of these three works for string orchestra, all of which were composed between 1937-39. They were recorded in what I assume to be an Amsterdam church -- (Doopsgezinde Singelkerk) -- but the recording doesn't have the usual "churchy" sound, that is to say, not too much reverberation. Every strand of music is clear and clean even in the most complex passages. I was won over from the first two chords in the Britten variations in which the whole orchestra plucks their instruments and the sense of the orchestra's place in the room is immediately established. (I listened to the 5.0 channel program).

For my money, Pentatone and these musicians could record all the chamber orchestra repertoire exactly this way and I'd be a happy customer. Highly recommended on all counts.

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Review by Edvin December 13, 2005 (8 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Another marvellous sacd from Pentatone, and one that has been nominated for a Grammy in the category; Best Engineered Album, Classical. Fingers crossed. (Also nominated is the Bruckner 7 in two categories)

These pieces were written between 1937-39 and the war is evident in all of them. The strongest piece here is the Hartmann concerto, a war piece if ever there was one. The emotions are painful and disturbing, but also defiant. Hartmann is here a commentator, a narrator whose mission it is to tell the world of the grimness that pervades his own country. About the darkness and suffering of millions. But it is also a lovely piece of music, heartfelt and sincere. So much sadness. I love this piece and have done so for many years. This performance with Gordan Nikolic as both soloist and leader is absolutely stunning, if I may use that word. Gripping is perhaps more proper.

The Bartók is well known and is given a performance every composer dreams of. Nicolic and his Netherlands Chamber Orchestra are so sensitive to every little nuance in Bartók´s score, and the slow movement is a miracle in it´s own microcosmos. No lack of bounciness either in the outer movements.

Britten, well I suppose I am in a minority here, but I am not that fond of this piece. I appreciate it and I even like it, but its greatness eludes me. I have, however, heard it many times and know it intimately and this is the first to not only challenge the composer´s own recording but also to superseede it.

The sound is superb - I listen in surround only, can´t be bothered with only two speakers - and it is perfectly balanced with the rear speakers mainly atmospheric (sic).

(I know I should let this go but being me I can´t. Oscar wrote in his review that he liked the sound and especially the strings. Sorry Oscar, there are no other instruments on this sacd but strings. But you probably meant the soloists..?)

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Review by Oscar August 30, 2005 (7 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Superb performances. The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra is a top flight ensemble, with crisp and articulate playing. Gordan Nikolic, their leader, is also the solo violin player. His tone is superb.

Of the three pieces in this disc, the Concerto funebre (for violin) of Hartmann, seemed to me the outstanding interpretation of the disc. THs music making is very caracterfull, and with a remarkable atmosphere. The Britten and Bartok are also excellent.

Pentatone sound is the usual excellence. The strings in particular sound very crisp and "tactile".
This record is a must.

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Works: 3  

Béla Bartók - Divertimento, Sz. 113 BB 118
Benjamin Britten - Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10
Karl Amadeus Hartmann - Concerto funèbre