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Bartók Solo Piano Music and Piano Concertos

Bartók's piano music runs to eight discs in Zoltan Kocsis' integrale, and it is useful to have them all together in a cheap re-issue (£28 from Amazon), especially for piano teachers.

The piano was central in the composer's life and work and a great deal of this music is little known and rarely played in concert. Much of it is teaching material and there is a wealth of ethnographic research in the folk tune arrangements, meticulously documented.

However, for record collectors there are limitations, particularly that Kocsis tends to come across as a cool interpreter of the concert music, and is not helped by the dry acoustics and engineering in Hamburg (1980-1999). But do enjoy his invaluable video of the three Etudes, with the score passing in front of your eyes!

Bartók by Nissman

I therefore draw your attention to a single disc selection by scholar/pianist Barbara Nissman, who studied with Gyorgy Sandor, one of Bartók's own students (remembered by us as one of the loudest pianists heard at Wigmore Hall, though that is not Nissman's way!).

Her disc includes the first recording of an early sonata which she rediscovered, and it is all played with warmth and loving enthusiasm, and very well recorded by Pierian.

Nissman's book is a classic, essential reading for serious Bartók students and enthusiasts.


Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 2 & 3 (complete)
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet & BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda

Chandos: CHAN10610

The piano concertos (composed for financial need by the impecunous composer) have been extensively recorded, and one can welcome warmly the latest addition to that discography.

They benefit greatly from the clarification of textures and balance that Chandos' good engineering can achieve and these accounts, recorded in Manchester, are admirable.

With good analytic and biographical notes by Paul Griffiths, this makes a worthy companion to the Boulez spectacular with three soloists and three different orchestras (2000-2004) !

Heard live relatively infrequently (especially the 1st) it is worth having both.

Bartók is deservedly well represented on disc, and these are all recordings to live with.

Peter Grahame Woolf