This intelligent and satisfying programme features three contrasting miniature masterpieces by Bartók, and prefaces them with Lutoslawski’s Musique funèbre, subtitled ‘À la mèmoire de Béla Bartók’. As the only one of Lutoslawsiki’s works dedicated to a composer, it reflects the extent to which the Pole saw his older Hungarian colleague as a kindred spirit. [...] His tone row, though, is appealingly earthy, and the 12-note chords at the climax have a powerful scrunch, especially in this searing performance from the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies. [...] the disc’s other real draw is what’s billed here as ‘Seven Songs’, a selection of children’s chorusses from Bartók’s 1935 collection of Two- and Three-Part chorusses, sounding wonderfully fresh.
John Allison, BBC Music Magazine
Juxtaposing Lutoslawskis ‘Funeral Music’ in memory of Béla Bartók (1956-58) with the Hungarian’s divertimento (1939) is apt beyound the textural common string-orchestral ground. Bartók was creative godfather to the Pole, whose musical gravestone references the Divertimento obliquely. The obvious coupling – perhaps too obvious – would have been the ‘Music For Strings, Percussion and Celesta’ but the ‘Romanian Folk Dances’, given here in the familiar 1937 string-orchestral transcription by Arthur Willner, act as a kind of creative corrective (not for the first time on disc), moving back towards the raw material from which Bartók’s creativity – and, at a further remove, Lutoslawski’s own – sprang. [...] Dennis Russell Davies ellicits finely judged and very refined performances from the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra. Thier measured account of Lutoslawski’s ‘Funeral Music’ is deeply felt and, while not displacing the composer’s own, gets to the heart of the matter. . [...] Typically superb ECM sound...
Guy Rickards, Gramophone
L’interprétation qu’en donne Dennis Russell Davies est de plus suggestives. Ce n’est plus un orchestre à cordes (sensibles) que conduit le chef américain mais une légion d’arbalétriers tendus vers une seule et évidente cible: le Divertimento de Bartók, à son tour atteint en plein cœur (expression d’outre-tombe) par ce collectif d’une grande efficacité.
Pierre Gervasoni, Le Monde
A pairing of Witold Lutoslawski and Bela Bartok isn't a big stretch. After all, they were both Eastern European, both lived and worked in the 20th century, each in their own way were modern innovators, and Bartok was a major influence on Lutoslawski. But it works especially if the program leads off with "Musique Funebre", written by Lutoslawski to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Bartok's death. […] So there you have it - a kind of alternation between the somber and the earthy, the question of influences, some somewhat unstandard juxtapositions and an excellent series of performances by Dennis Russell Davies and the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester.
Grego Applegate Edwards, Classicalmodernmusic.blogspot.com
This might at first glance seem a bit random as far as programming goes, but when you read about the influence Bartók had on Lutoslawski and about the unique dedication, ‘A la mèmoire de Béla Bartók’, the only one Lutoslawski gave in any of his works to another composer, then everything begins to slot into place.
Superbly performed and recorded on this CD, Lutoslawski’s Musique Funèbre builds in counterpoint and concentration with startling clarity and needle-sharp accuracy under Dennis Russell Davies’ directorship. [...] With chilling desolation on every page this is a performance to thrill the soul.
Dominy Clements, Music Web International