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Bartok, Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2

Isabelle Faust, violin,Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra,Daniel Harding, conductor. (Harmonia Mundi)

For a quick survey of Bartok's career, and of the arc of the human heart, you can't do better than this album, which pairs an early piece — a love letter to a woman Bartok was crazy about in 1907-08 — with his immortal concerto of 1938. The early piece, not published until after his death, has a romantic history of its own and deserves to be heard as a true concerto. All the melodic and temperamental richness of Bartok's mature music is here in more exuberant and raw form. The lyrical, late-Romantic heart that beats at the center of all of Bartok's music is clearly expressed by violinist Isabelle Faust, who has previously recorded the composer's sonatas on Harmonia Mundi, and Harding's flawless Swedish orchestra. The late piece is a monument of 20th century music and in this performance the vast range of effects and musical ideas that Bartok presents are breathtaking.

If you're interested in Bartok but don't know where to start, this is the place.

— Jay Furst, Post-Bulletin

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