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Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Complete Works for Piano Solo - Volume 3
Bartók and the Folk Music
Two Romanian Dances Op. 8, BB 56 (1910) [8:47]
Three Hungarian Folksongs from Csík BB 45b (1907) [3:43]
Three Hungarian Folktunes BB 80b (1914-18 rev. 1941) [3:56]
Six Romanian Folk Dances BB 68 (1915) [5:29]
Romanian Christmas Songs BB 67 Series 1 (1915) [5:39]
Romanian Christmas Songs BB 67 Series 2 [7:47]
Three Rondos on Folktunes BB 92 (1916-27) [8:52]
Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs BB 79 (1914-18) [14:30]
Four Old Sorrowful Songs [8:04]
Old Dance Tunes [6:29]
Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs BB 83 (1920) [11:47]
Andreas Bach (piano)
rec. WDR Funkhaus Köln, Germany, April 2009, January and March 2010

This selection offers the listener a comprehensive collection of piano pieces drawn from the Hungarian, Romanian and Slovak folk tradition. It features both simple arrangements and more complex modernistic examples of Bartók’s piano writing. There are also original pieces which he composed in a folk style, some of the composers’ most characterful and colourful pieces.

In my reviews of the previous two releases in this series (Volume 1 ~ Volume 2) I stated that I enjoyed the approach of Andreas Bach and especially in the way that each CD release is themed. Whilst I hold that this is turning out to be a really useful set of Bartók's complete solo piano music, I did think that if any of the releases were to prove a sticking point it would be the one that dealt with the folk idiom, and I think I am right. This is not to say that Andreas Bach does not offer a strong performance in these works, he does. It is just that I find Zoltán Kocsis delivers a more idiomatic performance (Decca Collectors' Edition 478 2364).

If you compare Bach’s performance of the Six Romanian Folk Dances or the Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs to that of Kocsis they sound a little less colourful, more ‘German’ compared to someone brought up in the great ‘Hungarian’ tradition of piano playing. Kocsis at times sounds as if he knows the originals that these pieces are based upon.

However, in the more modernist pieces, such as the Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs and Three Rondos on Folktunes, Bach seems to be on safer ground and he gives a very good rendition.

Where Andreas Bach scores over Kocsis is in his inclusion of the Four Old Sorrowful Songs and the Old Dance Tunes, which the booklet notes point to being the original pre-1914 version of the Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs. Bartók orchestrated the second section of these pieces as his Hungarian Peasant Songs of 1933.

As stated above, Bach’s playing in this folk-inspired music is not as strong as in volumes one and two although he still gives a good account of these pieces. The recorded balance is clean and bright which leads to a pleasing piano sound. The notes, as before, are excellent and offer a greater insight into the music than those that accompany the Kocsis set.
Stuart Sillitoe



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