Bartók: The Miraculous Mandarin

SIGCD466 | September 2016 release

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The Miraculous Mandarin CD cover

WINNER: ‘Choc Classica de l’année’ at the 2016 Classica Magazine awards.

This second recording from the Phillharmonia and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s 2011 Bela Bartók series, Infernal Dance, features three works.

One-act pantomime The Miraculous Mandarin is followed by the six-movement Dance Suite, and Contrasts for violin, clarinet and piano, performed by Philharmonia Concertmaster Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay, Principal Clarinet Mark van de Wiel, and pianist Yefim Bronfman.

Contrasts is one of Béla Bartók s most imaginative forays into the world of chamber music. His only chamber work involving a woodwind instrument (for Piano, Clarinet and Violin), Contrasts originated in a commission from the American King of Swing, Benny Goodman. Composed to mark the 50th anniversary of Budapest in 1923, Bartók’s Dance Suite is a rhapsodic collection of folk inspired tunes that marked a sonorous change in direction from the composer’s more dissonant works up to that point. The ballet-pantomime The Miraculous Mandarin is raw, dangerous, exotic and elemental: using the rarely performed full ballet score it is frenzied music, percussive, sensuous and violent, telling a shocking story of desire and death.

“Salonen and the Philharmonia relish the rhythmic barbarity, which rivals that of The Rite of Spring — the strings digging deep in the furious allegro. Salonen is in his element in Bartok’s hardcore modernism, but the more accessible Dance Suite is superbly played, too.”
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times

“Salonen’s performance with the Philharmonia, though also recorded live in the Festival Hall, somehow achieves a grander sonic scope, but that doesn’t diminish the ferocious savagery that Salonen uncorks, with rasping trombones and thumping timpani given their head and the string sound sometimes suggesting a lacerating whip.
The fillers here are Bartók’s Dance Suite — virtually an ethnomusicological tour of eastern Europe — and his fabulously acerbic Contrasts for clarinet, violin and piano. The cartwheeling clarinet part was written for Benny Goodman; Mark Van de Wiel is superb here, as are the violinist Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay and the pianist Yefim Bronfman.”
Richard Morrison, The Times

“What I love about this recording… from Salonen and the Philharmonia [is] we get that real now-or-never adrenalin that you get in a live performance… that sort of white heat focus really comes across in the playing. I find it really thrilling.”
Kate Mollosen, BBC Radio 3 Record Review



  • Esa-Pekka Salonen


  • Bartók

Product Types:

  • CD