Bartók’s score for The Wooden Prince holds its own over nearly one hour of enchanted and ripe music (more successfully than the complete if shorter Firebird does – Stravinsky’s three Suites are preferable), something that Cristian Măcelaru ensures in his symphonic reading of music that brings its own atmospheres, descriptions and emotions – and choreography – to seamlessly sustain the listener’s interest both musically and graphically.

It’s a beautifully judged reading in terms of narrative and direction, the large-orchestra colours are scrupulously delineated and rhythms have an intoxicating lift – Bartók’s scoring abounds in detail and incident (including some hangovers from Bluebeard’s Castle) – and the whole has a vibrancy that is compelling, plenty of thrills and passions, as well as numerous painterly subtleties, played and recorded superbly.

Dance Suite is slightly less successful, a little precipitate in places. Furthermore, I am a tad uncertain as to the placing and, in particular, timbre of the cymbal in the final number (track 19; 0:29) and the closing tongue-twisting trumpet solo needs a hairsbreadth’s more time for enunciation purposes, however brilliantly executed, but such forensic observations do not deny the performance’s earthy vigour and (fourth section) nocturnal ravishing. (Măcelaru has also recorded Dance Suite for BR Klassik, which I have not heard.)

However, Wooden Prince, with its opening that might be heard as corresponding to that of Das Rheingold, is the thing – and that is unmissable. Linn CKD 714.

RELEASED TODAY, September 2: Cristian Măcelaru & WDR Sinfonieorchester record Dvořák’s Legends and Czech Suite for Linn.