Bartók’s most popular and accessible work bears the confusing title concert for orchestra. In classical form, a concert is usually focused on a solo instrument versus the orchestra. The title here suggests the orchestra itself has that solo role. Bartók explained this contradiction in terms by claiming whole sections of the orchestra were treated in a soloistic manner. He was treating every section with the virtuosity of a soloist.
Bartók wrote the piece in 1943, while he was suffering from leukaemia. The story goes when he heard of the commission to write it, he got up from his sickbed and simply walked out of the hospital. He was living in America at the time, since he fled the Nazi’s in 1940. These turned out to be the last few years of his life.
Something I have never heard consciously, but in the fourth part, Bartók is citing Franz Léhar’s Die lustige Witwe. That is one of the few tapes that never made it to an actual record for me. I listened to it a lot on tape, but in the end I never bought the record.