Bartók composed The Miraculous Mandarin (published as ‘A Pantomime in One Act’) at a time of violent unrest in Hungary. The unpleasant Soviet Hungarian Republic had collapsed in 1919 and was replaced by an ultra nationalist regime which persecuted communists, Jews and leftists, and left over 1,500 dead and thousands imprisoned without trial. It is against this bloody political and social backdrop that the composer, recovering from Spanish Flu, set about a musical depiction of Lengyel’s ‘pantomime grotesque’.
Prior to this period, and after the large- scale Suite No.1 of 1905, Bartók commenced work on a second suite. Smaller in scale than No.1 it is imbued with the folk music he had been studying. It was premiered in 1910. Bartók was spared service in World War I after failing several medicals. He spent the war years collecting folk songs and some of these provided material for the Hungarian Peasant Songs, which he returned to in 1933 and orchestrated. This album is the second in a survey of all the composers works for orchestra by Thomas Dausgaard and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.