It is interesting that Bela Bartók, a pianist, should devote so large a part of his output, and indeed
some of his deepest thoughts to music for the violin. This may
be due in part to his relationships with some of Hungary’s finest
violinists, namely, Jenö Hubay,
Stefi Geyer, Jelly d’Arányi, Joseph Szigeti and with the great Yehudi Menuhin. Thankfully these
friendships spawned not only the works on this recording, but
also the six string quartets and the two violin concertos.
with Bartók’s earliest
known violin work, Elise Bĺtnes and Hĺvard Gimse give us
a tender performance of the Andante for violin and piano, which
is possessed of so sweet a melody that we are led to wonder
if this isn’t a piece of salon music by a lesser composer. No
indeed, this is the work of a young master composed oddly on
the back of twelve postcards and given to a friend and fellow
student Adila d’Aranyi as a little musical greeting card. Would
that Hallmark™ could
produce such gems.
sonata of 1903 is another student composition, and although
very well crafted, it shows the influence of Brahms and Dvorak
on the young composer. The melodies are bold and sweeping and
the accompaniment is lush and romantic and full of the late
nineteenth century harmonic progressions. Of particular interest
and merit is the gypsy themed second movement, played here with
a dark and compelling passion.
with his colleague Zoltán Kodály, were pioneers in the field
of ethnomusicology, and the both of them travelled throughout
the Hungarian countryside capturing authentic performances of
folksongs on the newly-invented phonograph. This research led
both composers to integrate these songs into their more formal
compositions, thus preserving the old in the clothes of the
new. The nine little gems here are brief and sometimes even
abrupt, but are altogether captivating with their spicy harmonies
and stirring dance-like rhythms. Ms Bĺtnes and Mr Gimse tear into them with abandon and produce a splendid
contrast to the more rhapsodic and serious sonatas.
unaccompanied sonata was written for Yehudi Menuhin and is the
last work that Bartók was able
to complete in every detail. Clearly modeled after Sebastian
Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas, Bartók uses ancient formal structures in a kind of homage to the great baroque
composer. This is the most harmonically adventuresome of the
works presented here, and Ms Bĺtnes gives us a sensitive and virtuosic performance. Her rich tone
applied in the warmer passages, contrasted with a pointed clear
sound in the more biting harmonies.
collection was full of surprises and is a disc that I shall
certainly return to again and again. For one who is accustomed
to the sharper, more dissonant music of the string quartets,
these generous and hearty works came as a pleasant discovery.
This recording fulfills what I believe to be any recording’s
biggest mission; to leave the listener satisfied and wanting
to explore more of a composer’s music. In this regard, this
is a most satisfying performance. Program notes are thorough,
interesting and thankfully devoid of academic blather. Sound
quality is up to Simax’s customary high standards.