Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 127
Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta, Sz. 106, BB 114
Hungarian Sketches (Magyar képek), for orchestra, Sz. 97, BB 103
While most concertos feature a solo instrument -- or sometimes several soloists -- accompanied by an orchestra, in this concerto the orchestra itself is the star. The Concerto for Orchestra is not a mere showpiece, however. The technical challenges always serve a musical purpose, whether it's to create the sad and delicate weblike strands of the "Elegy" or the delirious dance of the finale. "Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta," which uses a smaller ensemble, is perhaps even more potent. The first movement is a fugue that builds slowly and powerfully. The second movement and the finale are rhythmic and wild, yet tightly coiled. The eerie use of xylophone and other percussion in the third movement influenced many film music composers -- particularly in the horror genre. Fritz Reiner, Hungarian by birth, was a marvelous interpreter of Bartók's music. These performances are classics, noted for their superb early-stereo-era sound that captures the supreme virtuosity of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in its prime.