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BARTOK: Mikrokosmos

Bela Bartok

Mikrokosmos, Book 1 - 6 complete
Jeno Jando, piano

Naxos: 8.557821-22 [145 mins]

Little pieces most of these 153 may be, but Bartok's largest project, of huge significance and particular importance in my musical life. I have studied them all intensively during different periods of my life, and taught many to my musician sons, one a noted boy singer and now a prominent jazz bassist on the London scene, the other ex-National Youth Orchesta trombonist. They took to Bartok as to mother's milk, and found Bach & Mozart (later) harder. Bartok began them for his 9-year old son Peter, and my Simon was playing them well before that age.

The earlier ones are primarily pedagogic, more for musical develpment than for pianism, but their unselfconscious ingenuity makes them not pall with familiarity, and I am finding book two on the computer soothing whilst writing, bringing all the pleasure of re acquaintance with long forgotten friends.

Several exist in two-piano or voice-and-piano forms, which brings a little more textural variety on the way - I recorded on acetate when a student several that were particularly suitable for my clavichord...

This is a thoroughly worth-while project for Naxos's in-house pianist, who has released for them integrales of Mozart and Beethoven. Richard Whitehouse tells us about Bartok's wide range of sources, with references to numerous composers and connections to his own major works from the '30s - 'a guide to its composer's world like no other'.

Jando's approach is straightforward, expository rather than seeking to put a personal stamp on them. A veritable treasure trove for Bartokians; don't pass it by.

Various pianists have recorded selections of Mikrokosmos (including Bartok himself for Columbia - two pieces in 1937, and 32 of them in 1940) and more individual interpretations of some of the pieces can be found. Complete recordings by Ranki and Hellfer are worth checking out; but the most tempting bargain is György Sándor's complete Bartok Solo Piano Music recorded in 1963 and reissued on CDs: Vox BoxC D5X 3610.

I have bought that via Amazon, and it proves to be a very worth-while integrale.

Mikrokosmos apart, many of Bartok's piano works are scattered in so many editions that it is valuable to have them together on CD, especially with Harry Halbreich's perceptive analysis of the composer's evolving style.

Q.v. also Barbara Nissmann's invaluable Bartok and the Piano, which takes you through many of the works from a performer's point of view.


© Peter Grahame Woolf