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A la demande: Bartók's Concerto for orchestra

KonserthusetPlayRecorded at Konserthuset Stockholm: Stora Salen, Stockholm, Suède

Concerto for Orchestra is a musical milestone composed in the US, where Béla Bartók escaped the Nazis as they ravaged Europe. Watch French conductor Alain Altinoglu lead the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in this incredible twentieth-century classic. 

Bartók managed to get by for a few, meagre years in New York, but continued to compose as always: his work was his whole life. Meanwhile, he began having symptoms of what would eventually be diagnosed as leukemia, but in the midst of this all, a prestigious commission came up in 1943: conductor Serge Koussevitzky wanted an orchestral work for his Boston Symphony Orchestra. 

Maybe Bartók felt his life was nearing its end (he passed away in September 1945), because this piece is rather like a summary of all his musical achievements. His great love of folk music resonates through the symphony, which progresses with a tangibly dancing rhythm. Tight orchestral harmonies burst into sweet scenes, with hints of the Hungarian countryside.

This concerto is brilliantly structured, with the four outer movements forming a sense of symmetry around the slow, middle movements. The symphony was already a success at its 1944 world premiere in Boston, and since then it has retained its position as a central piece of the symphonic repertoire. 

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