Following the very recommendable Onyx 4210 (Suite No.1 and Concerto for Orchestra), Thomas Dausgaard and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra now give us a vivid and graphic account of the complete Miraculous Mandarin Pantomime Ballet score (in its day, the 1920s, a scandal-inducing show that attracted censorship) in Peter Bartók’s restorative edition. Dausgaard and the SSO musicians document a tremendous account of this music in all its cacophonous, sleazy, eerie, violent and (with spectral voices) otherworldly glory, played brilliantly, incident-packed as much for imagined stagecraft as for the compelling music itself, powerful and dramatically dissonant certainly but also beguiling, however sinister, as various characters are introduced.
By contrast the Hungarian Peasant Songs and the painterly/panoramic Suite No.2 offer the deep earth, sometimes edgily preserved by Bartók’s orchestrations, of folk melodies or ‘in the spirit of’ originals – exuberant, full of pathos, noble – that get to and retain the roots of this rich resource, tapped into like natives in these renditions.
As for the previous release, Simon Eadon’s engineering (at City Halls, Glasgow) is wholly excellent in its clarity and impact, while Chris Hazell (Mandarin) and Andrew Keener take it in turns to produce their respective remits to the highest standard. Onyx 4213. Hopefully a third release is ‘in the can’ or will be once Covid restrictions are lifted.