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Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Piano Music vol. 4 - for children (gyermekeknek) BB53, Sz.42 (revised 1943)
Vol. 1 Based on Hungarian Folk tunes [37:07]
Vol. 2 Based on Slovakian Folk tunes [39:12]
Jenö Jandó (piano)
Recorded at the Phoenix Studio, Budapest, Hungary, 24-27 September, 2002.
NAXOS 8.555998 [76:19]

Bartók’s piano music "For Children" may have been written in a simple way that enables children to play it but simple things are often all the better for being so and these pieces are perfect examples of just that. They are also wonderful demonstrations of Bartók’s amazing ability to write for the piano and his artful yet artless way with the folk tunes that he wove into the very fabric of his music. Here we have both Hungarian and Slovak tunes; Romanian being his other great love.

I can’t help thinking of Satie and Janáček when listening to these pieces as all three composers’ piano works are true examples of “less is more”. Their simplicity is beguiling, the economy of writing astonishing. Anyone who has ever travelled to Hungary and Slovakia and sat in a traditional restaurant where a gypsy band regales the customers with folk melodies on violins, cello and cimbalom will immediately recognise the essential idiom at work here. Bartók captures the kernel in each case and gently moulds it into a workable piece without distortion or over-elaboration. No folk musician would feel that his heritage or his art had been let down or misappropriated.

I can’t single out any single piece from the twenty-nine on this disc – I can say I never tired of them after at least six hearings. Given Jenö Jandó’s ubiquitous presence in the Naxos catalogue it is a wonder that his music-making here is so distinctive. The pianism is certainly aided by the lively acoustic of the Phoenix Studio in Budapest.

Yes, these pieces are "for children" and as notes on the page should prove easy enough to play. But any child who can capture the essence of these works and master the pauses and where the emphasis should be placed can be said to be a pianist of note in the making.

Steve Arloff



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