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Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Rhapsody, Op. 1 (1904) [22’45]. Etudes, Op. 18/Sz72 (1918) [11’13]. Suite, Op. 14/Sz62 (1916) [10’34] Sonatina, Sz55 (1915) [4’36]. Out of Doors, Sz81 (1926) [16’41]. Allegro barbaro, Sz49 (1911) [3’02]
Andreas Bach (piano)
Rec. August 22nd-25th, 2003 in Studio 2 of the Bavarian Radio. DDD

This is a stimulating recital, well played and well recorded. Andreas Bach possesses not only a formidable technique which he certainly needs in the post-Lisztian Rhapsody but also the intellect and musicality required to take on these works. He even provides his own booklet notes; more pianists should do the same.

The Rhapsody is characterised by an over-arching sensitivity. This is a late-Romantic work, and Bach presents it as such unashamedly. The slower, more tender passages (try around 11-12 minutes) are especially effective, yet the sense of abandon around 17’ is completely appropriate. There is some cheeky playing here, too, as Bach responds chameleon-like to Bartók’s varied scenery. The twenty seconds (no less!) of silence Ohms Classics leave at the end of the work is perhaps excessive, but perhaps they think we need the breathing space. Certainly the quiet close of the work, with its recitative-like tendencies, is grippingly inward - almost like some late Liszt. Superb. This makes an ideal complement to Zoltan Kocsis’s benchmark CD (Philips 464 639-2; ), which includes two versions of this piece.

The three Etudes of 1918 show just how far the composer had journeyed in the intervening years. The first shows just how much Ligeti has been influenced by the master, with its obsessive figures and its harmonically intrepid language. The second is, in contrast, twilit, exuding a sense of time being stretched. A flighty Rubato-Tempo giusto rounds off the set. Bach is happiest possibly in the Andante sostenuto (the second).

The rest of this recital presents more familiar ground. The Suite (1916) is shown to be a varied work, jaunty (first movement), cheeky (second), toccata-like (third) and finally hypnotic. Bach seems to particularly enjoy the humorous elements - his Bartók loves life.

The brief Sonatine is delightful, especially when as well played as here. Bach’s pedal- work in the first movement is excellent, just avoiding blurring textures; his bear dances mot amusingly in the second.

Out of Doors (‘Im Freien’ as it appears here) boasts a first movement that anticipates the Allegro barbaro that is to close this recital. A liquid Barcarolle is a highlight of this performance, as is the Night Music fourth movement. Finally, the Allegro barbaro - one of Bartók’s most famous pieces - is exciting without being pounded. There is a massive temptation to savage the piano in this piece that Bach resists commendably.

Enthusiastically recommended. Bach is a most musical pianist whose understanding of the Bartókian idiom should be sampled.

Colin Clarke

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