Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra & Karina Canellakis | Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra
by Illiam Sebitz
Karina Canellakis, lauded for her emotionally charged performances and technical command, is a leading conductor of her generation. Serving as Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor for both the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB), Canellakis has worked with top orchestras worldwide since winning the Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award in 2016. A virtuoso violinist-turned-conductor under Sir Simon Rattle’s guidance, she made history as the first woman to conduct both the First Night of the BBC Proms and the Nobel Prize Concert. Born in New York City, Canellakis has received critical acclaim for her concert performances and opera productions, and she will be an Artist-in-Residence at Vienna’s Musikverein in the 23-24 season.
Canellakis is making her Pentatone debut with Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra, while the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra returns to the label following their 2018 participation in Gordon Getty’s Beauty Comes Dancing. The recording’s program contains Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and four Orchestral Pieces. The Concerto for Orchestra, one of Bartók’s final works, is known for its vibrant orchestrations, virtuosic writing, and creative use of folk melodies. The four Orchestral Pieces strongly connect with Bartók’s stage works Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and The Wooden Prince, conceived during the same period. Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra highlights the remarkable synergy between Canellakis and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra.
Opening the recording is the first movement of Béla Bartók’s 4 Orchestral Pieces, Sz. 51, “Preludio. Moderato,” setting the stage for the rest of the recording and demonstrating Canellakis’ approach to the intriguing introduction of the composition that builds mystery with captivating sounds of modern harmony and the various orchestral colors and textures. Canellakis’ use of dynamics and flowing tempos bring out the composer’s unique style combining elements of impressionism and modernism. The movement is beautifully recorded, and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra’s skillful performance and response to Canellakis’ direction make for an impressive opening performance and introduction to the recording.
The fifth and final movement, “V. Finale. Pesante – Presto” from Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116 serves as a powerful and exciting ending to this delightful program. Canellakis’ concept, for its innovative orchestration, captivating melodies, and engaging structure is dynamic and brings out all the energy and textures wonderfully. The performance solidifies Canellakis’ imagination and directing concept for one of Bartók’s most enduring and celebrated compositions. Her tempo choices are lovely, and her pushing and pulling of phrases and the dynamic peaks and valleys are thrilling. Furthermore, her shaping of the composition brings out the various climaxes, the virtuosity of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, and the various sections of the orchestra, as it requires exceptional technical skill and precision from the performers.
Karina Canellakis’ Pentatone debut, Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra, is a triumph success that showcases her exceptional musicianship, understanding, and leadership in directing the outstanding capabilities of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Through her masterful command of tempo, dynamics, and phrasing, Canellakis brings life to Bartók’s richly textured works, revealing the full breadth of their beauty and complexity. This recording stands as a testament to Canellakis’ status as a leading conductor of her generation and further cements her place in the international classical music scene. The captivating performances and superb recording quality make this album an absolute must-listen for Bartók enthusiasts and newcomers, offering a genuinely engaging and unforgettable listening experience.
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra
Release Date: April 28, 2023
Label: Pentatone Music
About the author
Born and raised in a picturesque European village, my fondness for music began during my formative years, when the charismatic tones of the recorder first filled the halls of my primary school. This early fascination escalated into my lifelong pursuit of embracing the melodious charm of the flute; I have even spent time refining my skills at a music conservatoire. As a seasoned music connoisseur, I find myself captivated by the multifaceted world of music. I enjoy writing music reviews to better enable me to explore genres as diverse as world, rock, jazz, classical, folk, and film music, each offering a unique auditory journey that enriches my life and intellect.
In my spare moments, you'll likely find me meticulously crafting my latest woodworking project, sharpening my skills with flute etudes, or inventing tales of fantasy through the art of creative writing. My eclectic interests and expertise harmonize to create a symphony of passion and curiosity that resonates within every aspect of my life as a music enthusiast.
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