Bartok: Recordings from Private Collections

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The Independent Culture
Ignore the fastidious score markings, the meticulous timings, the precision-tooled orchestrations. This is the Bartok we don't often hear, a spur-of-the-moment re-creator of great music, be it his own (a stunning account of the Second Piano Concerto, albeit in fragment) or by Liszt, Debussy, Mozart and Brahms - all of them represented by substantially complete piano duets where Bartok is partnered by Erno Dohnanyi, no less. The Brahms Sonata in F minor is given a rugged, big-hearted reading, while Debussy's En blanc et noir finds Bartok revisiting a major influence on his own work. Then there's Bach, Kodaly, Beethoven and Chopin, all represented by fascinating solo performances. As to Bartok's compositions, there's a near-complete account of the Rhapsody Op 1 under Dohnanyi (exuberant playing, competent conducting), the First Violin Rhapsody with Ede Zathureczky, a whole host of shorter pieces and some spoken texts (including the Cantata profana). Bartok's voice is light, gentle and precise; his playing intuitive and widely expressive with a throw-away ease of delivery. Try his excitedly impatient Romanian Dance No 1 and you'll recognise the hands of the master, although you mustn't expect too much of the recordings: the Dance is passable (it's a discarded EMI commercial take), but most are the work of devoted amateurs - which is exactly what they sound like.

ROBERT COWAN

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