I have had the opportunity recently to take the time to listen again to the music of Bela Bartok’s. I love his Viola Concerto and the Concerto for Orchestra; and so I have explored other music, and came to listen more carefully to the Bartok Divertimento, as well. As is the case with a lot of Bartok’s compositions, I hear a lot of tunes from Hungary and from Hungarian Folk music in this piece. The character of these folk tunes is more rough; this music is not intended to be “elegant” in the sense of a Haydn or Mozart Minuet of the 1780’s.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s interpretation is filled with deep insight, and it is a model for how this music ought to be played. Since the composer’s music is often technically difficult, I came to realize that there is in this performance an added dimension of interpretative phrasing and detail that is really excellent.
With the virtuosity of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Harnoncourt shows us that he has considered and imagined every scene in this remarkable musical drama; characterizing every motif, emphasizing every texture, coming up new colors, and breathing into every phrase a highly personal interpretation. This is music-making that has certainly raised the ceiling of Bartok performance.
Here is yet another fine performance; in this case, the Berlin Philharmonic performing the Bartok Divertimento: Enjoy!