Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Piano Music - Volume 6
Four Piano Pieces, BB27
No.1: Study for the Left Hand (to István Thomán) [10:42] No.2: Fantasy 1 (to Emma Gruber) [5:09]; No.3: Fantasy 2 (to Emsy and Irmy Jurkovics) [3:47]; No.4: Scherzo (to Ern Dohnányi) [8:51]
Tableau 10 (from Kossuth), BB31: Marche funèbre [4:22]
Petits morceaux, BB38
No.1: Adagio, BB37, No.2 (Add ream csókodat, el kell már búcsúznom - Kiss me, for I have to say farewell) [2:43]; No.2: Moderato, BB24, No.1 (Őszi szellő - Autumn Breeze) [1:18]
Two Elegies for Piano, Op.8b, BB49
No.1: Grave [7:25]; No.2: Molto adagio sempre rubato [8:12]
Kezdők zongoramuszikája (First Term at the Piano), BB66
No.1: Moderato [0:39]; No.2: Moderato [0:43]; No.3: Párbészed (Dialogue): Moderato [0:31]; No.4: Párbészed (Dialogue): Moderato [0:40]; No.5: Moderato [0:39]; No.6: Moderato [1:08]; No.7: Népdal (Folksong): Moderato [0:55]; No.8: Andante [1:01]; No.9: Andante [0:47]; No.10: Népdal (Folksong: Erzsi Virág - Made her bed): Allegro [1:14]; No.11: Menuett: Andante [0:47]; No.12: Kanasztánc (Swineherd’s dance): Allegro [1:29]; No.13 Hol jártál, báránykám - népdal (Where have you been my lambkin - Folksong): Andante [0:52]; No.14: Andante [1:01]; No.15: Lakodalmas (Wedding Dance): Moderato [0:32]; No.16: Paraszttanc (Peasant’s Dance): Allegro moderato [0:19]; No.17: Allegro deciso [0:30]; No.18: Keringo (Waltz): Tempo de valse [0:37].
Jenő Jandó (piano)
rec. Phoenix Hall, Diósd , Hungary, August 2008..
NAXOS 8.572376 [66:52]
I remember being ‘frightened’ at the very name of Bartók when I was young, along with the names of Mahler, Schoenberg, Berg and others who simply sounded ‘difficult’. What could have possessed me to think that while having no problem at the prospect of Beethoven, Brahms or Sibelius? I’ve no idea but that’s children for you! Well if anyone had played me track 10 of this disc I’m sure any such thoughts would have vanished; this is easy on the ear but then most of Bartók’s output is like that - ok the string quartets may be a bit too complex for children’s ears but the exception once again proves the rule.

This disc is the sixth in the cycle of Bartók’s complete piano music played by Jenő Jandó. I love these works and never tire of hearing them, even those some might categorise as banal, such as First Term at the Piano, which really are simple children’s pieces. He wrote a lot of such little miniatures, but it is the very simplicity that is so appealing to me; small can be beautiful in music as well as in anything else and complexity doesn’t necessarily imply that something is good either. The first work on the disc, whilst also being very lyrical and approachable, is an extremely tough challenge for pianists. I was surprised to learn from the liner-notes that the work has never found much acceptance - I can’t understand why as it’s a lovely sounding work that was dedicated by Bartók to his teacher at the Academy in Budapest, Professor Thomán, who also taught Dohnányi. It is uncharacteristic of Bartók, sounding much more like Rachmaninov or Scriabin to me, but it was an early work, written in 1903 when the composer was only 22; the same year that both the abovementioned composers wrote preludes and etudes that to me sound so similar in style and sound-world.

The romantic nature continues with Fantasy 1 dedicated to Emma Gruber, a onetime pupil of counterpoint with Bartók who, after leaving her husband, went on to marry Kodály. Fantasy 2, dedicated to two girls he knew in his home town, is again in the same vein, short but very sweet. Perhaps the fact that there is no influence of folk music in these pieces, which is something we are used to in the music of Bartók, accounts for it sounding unlike what we expect to hear. This is not the case, however, in the Scherzo, which Bartók dedicated to his friend Dohnányi and which abounds in folk references. Track 5 is a piano transcription of the last two sections of his 1903 orchestral work Kossuth, named after the hero of the Hungarian insurrection of the late 1840s and is as serious in nature as its subtitle “marche funèbre” implies and is Lisztian in flavour. Tracks 6 and 7 are arrangements of two song transcriptions which Bartók made in 1905 but for some reason remained unpublished until as late as 1965! These two little pieces known as Petits morceaux are delightful miniatures whose folk origins are hinted at throughout.

The Two Elegies for Piano are a product of Bartók’s newly developed economy of expression, though still with Lisztian overtones. The liner-notes explain that they were not played for another decade after they were written, around 1908, when audiences may have considered them somewhat outdated following the premiere of his only opera Bluebeard’s Castle but they are lovely pieces of delicately constructed and beautifully flowing lines. As explained at the beginning, the cycle of children’s pieces First Term at the Piano are tiny miniatures that children would have found easy in their early studies but are worthy on their own terms and help dispel any notions that this great Hungarian composer wrote “difficult” music. This disc is another welcome addition to the complete piano series and Jandó is, as always, a highly intelligent and convincing interpreter.
Steve Arloff 

Another welcome addition to the complete piano series. Jandó is, as always, a highly intelligent and convincing interpreter. 

Reviews of other releases in this series