is difficult to imagine a better introduction to the piano
music of Bartók than this splendid disc. Murray Perahia’s
musicality is justly famous - most notably perhaps in the
music of Mozart - and it is everywhere evident here.
disc begins with the Sonata of 1926. Immediately one is
struck by the intelligence of the playing as well as by
the characteristic lightness. In keeping with this view
of the music, sforzati are accorded weight without unnecessary
violence. For the slow movement (‘Sostenuto e pesante’),
it is harmonic colour that is to the fore before a cheeky
finale, very much alive, rounds the work off.
Eight Improvisations are eminently suited to Perahia. He
has the ability to imbue the most affecting simplicity
with meaning – try the intimate first improvisation. Comedy
is present too (the playful Fourth) as is a hushed, conspiratorial
aspect (No. 7).
the Suite, Op 14 and the Out of Doors Suite are
amongst the composer’s most famous piano music. Both, also,
reveal a more extrovert side of Perahia, most notably in
the ferocious rhythmic drive of the Suite’s third movement
and the very opening of Out of Doors - like a punch
in the stomach! Perhaps it is Out of Doors that
is the best of the solo piano music here. Each movement
is exquisitely sculpted; the fluid second movement and
the processional third stand out.
Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion has added interest
in the presence of the great Hungarian Georg Solti in the
role of pianist. Solti and Perahia seem soul-mates, enjoying
an almost telepathic union. The whole interpretation breathes
care in preparation and accelerando in the first movement
is perfectly judged. If the sudden outbursts could have
more grit, this is in keeping with the overall lyric take
the players have on this work.
excellently clear recording enables every detail of the
Lento to count. There are some magical moments of scalic
interchange between the two pianists here. Most tellingly,
the finale marries playfulness and energy with a superb
sense of the music’s architecture.
are performances to treasure. Perahia gives the likes of
Kocsis more than a run for their money in the solo works
(see review); for the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, it
is Argerich and Kovacevich from 1977 that provide the benchmark.
and company can nevertheless hold their heads up high.
superb survey of Bartók’s piano music. Perahia has a clear
vision of what he wants to say and how he says it.
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Seen & Heard
Editor in Chief