A Hair-Raising Brew: BBC Scottish Symphony and Folk Group Muzsikás Explore Bartók's Roots
By Michael Tumelty

The Herald [Glasgow] 8. March 2004

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Ilan Volkov (conductor)
7 March 2004 - The Tramway, Glasgow

Amazing scenes last night at The Tramway as two Hungarian Folk dancers pounded the floor and scythed the air in the last, racing dance of Bartók's Romanian Folk Dances, while the musicians of the authentic Folk group Muzsikás added th e tart zest of their shrill, pungent fiddle sounds, and the slap-bass technique of the group's double-bassist powered the engine of the music.

It was already a hair-raisingly exciting climax to one of the most original musical events of recent times when, suddenly, roaring in and shifting the music into turbo-drive, co nductor Ilan Volkov and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra added Bartók's own virile, driving orchestration of the Folk dance to what was already an irresistibly thrilling brew. To say the performance was high-voltage is to come no where near catching the electric atmosphere of the occasion, an event that had the capacity Tramway crowd stomping the floor and baying for more.

It was just the final point in a concert that was a breathtakingly kaleidoscopic display of music and dance: an authentic Folk music idiom and a classical medium thoroughly cross-fertilising each other in a night that was a showcase of artistic excellence and entertainment.

Even those of u s who think we know where Bartók was coming from in his tireless collecting of Folk music must have been gobsmacked as we heard the originals played by Muzsikás, each number underlining just how the genius of Bartók pr eserved, in his transformations, the essence and spirit of the ethnic original, whether instrumental or, in the mesmeric singing of Márta Sebestyén, hauntingly vocal.

The real discovery of the night, with a sensational performance from the SSO and Volkov, was Ligeti's early and dazzling Romanian Concerto, a sizzling display piece that surely every orchestra will seek out. Knock-out night.