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Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Complete Works for Piano Solo - Volume 2 - The Romantic Bartók
Marche Funčbre from “Kossuth”, SZ. 21, BB 31 [4:09]
Rhapsody Op. 1, SZ. 26, BB 36a [18:35]
Two Elegies Op. 8b, SZ. 41, BB 49: Grave [7:01]; Molto adagio sempre rubato [7:25]
Four Piano Pieces SZ. 22, BB 27: Studie für die Linke Hand [8:55]; I. Fantasie (I. Ábránd): Andante, quasi Adagio [5:42]; II. Fantasie (II. Ábránd): Andante [4:24]; Scherzo: Allegro vivace [11:13]
Andreas Bach (piano)
rec. Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal, WDR Köln, Germany. 22 March 2013, 9-11 March 2011, 30 April 2009, 19-22 January 2010.

With Volume Two of this proposed complete edition of the solo piano works Andreas Bach enters the realms of Bartók’s more romantic works (he also recorded an album for Oehms a decade or so ago - see review). Although these are certainly late-romantic they do not look back towards the great romantic piano works of Schumann and Brahms. This is romanticism through the eyes of a modernist.

The disc opens with the Marche Funčbre which is taken from the symphonic poem “Kossuth”. This piece resulted from the Bartók’s study of the music of Liszt and it is generally regarded as the composer's first major work, dating from 1903. It's the composer's arrangement of the final section of the orchestral work, and quite effective and atmospheric it is too. This is followed by Bartók’s opus 1, the Rhapsody from 1904. The following year he composed the version for piano and orchestra and a version for two pianos and orchestra in 1907. Although this piece has a single span, it has distinct sections which has led some to argue that the work is actually in two linked movements, the first an Adagio molto with the second a Poco allegretto. The Two Elegies date from 1908 and 1909 can be seen to hark back to a more traditional romantic piano style. The first documents the final break up with the violinist Stefi Geyer, whilst the second, composed some twenty-three months later, is a much happier piece as it was written during the build up to Bartók’s marriage to his first wife Márta Ziegler. The final work also dates from 1903 and was one of the first pieces by Bartók to be published. It is a collection of contrasting pieces, with each making different demands on the pianist.

As with Volume 1, I returned to my Decca box of the complete solo piano music performed by Zoltán Kocsis (Collectors Edition 478 2364) for comparison. Bach’s performances standing up well. His tempos were fast in some cases and slow in others, in the case of the final piece of the Four Piano Pieces quite slow indeed, three minutes slower in fact, but both interpretations have their merit. I have recently heard Kocsis’ later recording of these works on Hungaroton (HCD32524) and if anything I prefer that version to the Decca. However, Andreas Bach is now half way through this cycle, in number of discs (4), and this is developing into a most valuable and excellent set, a worthy alternative to Kocsis in either incarnation. Indeed there are times when I get more from Bach’s interpretation than from Kocsis’. An excellent reading which with its admirable recorded sound and booklet notes is an alternative that will stand the test of time. I eagerly look forward to future releases.

Stuart Sillitoe



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