This disc contains three of Bartók's marvelous works for string orchestra. Well, more or less. Actually the Divertimento is the only Bartók score here originally for strings alone. The Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta has, um, percussion and celesta, too. And the Rumanian Folk Dances have been arranged for string ensemble with piano obbligato by this disc's conductor, Jean-Marie Zeitouni.
The Divertimento and MfSP&C were commissioned in the 1930s by Paul Sacher for his Basle Chamber Orchestra. Zeitouni's approach to both of them is rather soft-edged and even a little bit timid. But for those who find Bartók a bit harsh for their taste, these might be more than acceptable performances. They are among the most-played of Bartók's orchestral pieces and there are many recordings. I'm particularly fond of Boulez's recording of the Divertimento with the Chicago Symphony Béla Bartók: Divertimento / Dance Suite / Hungarian Sketches / Two Pictures - Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Pierre Boulez, and although it is in less-than-modern sound, I love Reiner's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, also with the CSO Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra; Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta; Hungarian Sketches. The latter also contains one of the very best performances of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra. For a MfSP&C in modern sound you could do worse than have Harnoncourt's version with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe Béla Bartók: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta; Divertimento for String Orchestra.
Zeitouni's arrangement of Rumanian Folk Dances is mostly just a filler, lasting only seven minutes or so. And it exists in an arrangement for chamber orchestra and winds by Bartók himself. So although Zeitouni's arrangement is pleasant enough, and it has some really nice atmospherics, Bartók's arrangement, albeit for not quite the same kind of ensemble, feels more authentic.