Leon Botstein—author, scholar, and conductor—is known for his innovative programming and for uncovering unusual repertoire and bringing it back into the concert hall. Here he leads the London Philharmonic in music by Bartok that ranges from the popular Concerto for Orchestra to the rarely heard Four Orchestral Pieces.
"More than a half century after the first performance of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra," says Leon Botstein in the liner notes for this CD, "a reconsideration of the performance history of this world famous work may be timely." For many, the Concerto for Orchestra is considered to be the composer's signature work. Written as a commission from the Koussevitsky Foundation for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, it was premiered on December 1, 1944. Although it has been performed and recorded many times, it is not widely known that the composer penned two different endings for the piece. The second one has become the most widely accepted and standard in performance. This recording also offers (on track 12) the original ending, which was left intact by Bartok in the published score.
Rarely heard in performance, Bartok's Four Orchestral Pieces, Op. 12 was basically an unknown score until Pierre Boulez discovered it in the 1970s and conducted it with great success. The music acts as a stylistic bridge between the earlier one-act opera Bluebeard's Castle and later works such as The Miraculous Mandarin and The Wooden Prince; and it introduces a new timbre—the piano—into Bartok's orchestration.
Also heard on this recording are the Hungarian Peasant Songs, taken from Bartok's Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs originally written for piano. Nine of the fifteen pieces were orchestrated in 1933, beginning with a ballad in 7/8 time and continuing with a group of songs and dances based on Hungarian folk melodies.
Leon Botstein's recent Telarc recordings of the music of Szymanowski and the complete Strauss opera Die Liebe der Danae have been praised by the critics. "Leon Botstein is fully aware of the quite different palates these pieces use, and the LPO play splendidly," said Gramophone of the Szymanowski disc. Danae was named the Editor's Choice CD for the month of June 2001 by Opera News Magazine, and the London Times said "...this translucent performance does make you believe in a score that shares some of the best features of Strauss's other mythological works." Upcoming on Telarc with Botstein will be a recording of the works of Reger.