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Béla Bartók was one of the leading Hungarian and European composers of his time, and a proficient pianist. He made significant contributions to the orchestral, chamber and piano music repertoires. He joined his friend Zoltán Kodály in the collection of folk music in Hungary and neighbouring regions. His work in this field deeply influenced his own style of composition, which is much more astringent in its apparent mathematical organisation than much of what Kodály wrote.

He was out of sympathy with the government that replaced the immediate post-1918 republic in Hungary, where he was held in less official esteem than abroad, and moved in 1940 to the United States, dying there in relatively straitened circumstances in 1945.

In marking the 70th anniversary of Bartók's death, on 26 September 1945, let's open with the composer himself playing his From the Diary of a Fly (from Mikrokosmos, Vol. 6), recorded during his years in the United States.



Naxos 8.558200-01
BARTÓK: Béla Bartók - A Portrait (JOHNSON)
  • 2 CDs with over 2½ hours of music
  • Illuminating essay by Stephen Johnson
  • Illustrated with photographs

Well over half a century after his death, Béla Bartók is held up as one of the twentieth century’s great musical modernists, routinely coupled with revolutionaries like Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Webern and Varèse. But Bartók’s was a very different kind of journey. In some ways he was also a great conservationist, collecting and cataloguing his country’s folksongs, and looking for new ideas in the sounds of nature. Bartók was not a creator of systems, never an iconoclast; rather he sought ways forward by turning music back to its primal, natural roots before the forces of urbanisation and mechanisation cut them off completely. His message is therefore as relevant today as it has ever been.



Orchestral music


8.572486
Concerto for Orchestra
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta

Baltimore Symphony, Alsop
 

“A fine, fine, effort, and strongly recommended.”
Fanfare

  Listen to an extract from
Concerto for Orchestra:
V. Presto

8.573307
Kossuth / 2 Portraits
Orchestral Suite No. 1

Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta

“JoAnn Falletta’s performances of these early Bartók show-stoppers really do raise the roof.”
Gramophone

  Listen to an extract from
Kossuth

8.554321
Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
Pauk, Polish National Radio Symphony, Wit

“György Pauk plays both works with excellent intonation, secure technique, and a sure sense
of style.”
ClassicsToday.com

  Listen to an extract from
Violin Concerto No. 1:
I. Andante sostenuto



Chamber music


8.550749
Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2
Contrasts

Pauk, Jandó, Berkes

“Pauk ... displays a consistently rich and golden tone ... while Jandó offers a quite superb account of the fiendish piano part.”
The Strad

  Listen to an extract from
Violin Sonata No. 1:
III. Allegro

8.557543-44
The Complete String Quartets
Vermeer Quartet
 

“What the much-traveled, much-recorded Vermeer Quartet brings to these quartets is irreplaceable. You will never catch them, no matter how fiendishly demanding it gets, substituting sound for music. The result is a discipline and a suavity that elevates their Bartók cycle to a very high level.”
The Buffalo News

  Listen to an extract from
String Quartet No. 4:
IV. Allegretto pizzicato

8.550886
Rhapsodies Nos. 1 and 2
Piano Quintet

Pauk, Jandó, Kodaly Quartet

“An instructive diversion for all inquisitive Bartókians.”
Gramophone

  Listen to an extract from
the Piano Quintet:
III. Adagio



Music for solo piano


8.554717
Piano Music, Vol. 1
Suite for piano
7 Sketches
Piano Sonata

Jandó

“You don't have to be Hungarian to play Bartók's music convincingly, but Jeno Jandó seems born to it and strikes the ideal balance between impact and clarity.”
BBC Music Magazine

8.555329
Piano Music, Vol. 3
Out of Doors
Ten Easy Pieces
Allegro Barbaro

Jandó

“Jandó, surely the most recorded of all pianists, is a persuasive advocate, achieving a fine sense of gravity and desolation in the fourth Dirge and thrilling us with his brilliantly incisive way in the Second Romanian Dance. ...this is a distinguished issue, admirably recorded.”
Gramophone

8.555998
Piano Music, Vol. 4
For Children

Jandó

“If you are not a Bartók fan now, this recording will bring you several steps closer to becoming one.”
American Record Guide




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