Magazine article Gramophone

Bartok

Magazine article Gramophone

Bartok

Article excerpt

Bartok

'Complete Works for Piano Solo, Vol 4'

For Children, Sz42

Andreas Bach pf

Hanssler Classic (F) HC17009 (80' * DDD)

The late Zoltan Kocsis was among the first pianists to stress the musical value of Bartok's collection For Children over and above its purely didactic function. As with albums for the young by Schumann and Tchaikovsky, the work's contents, which during the course of its 80-minute journey become ever more technically and harmonically challenging, include pieces that if sensitively and poetically handled would grace any recital programme.

There are many similarities in approach between Kocsis and Andreas Bach but plenty of differences too. To take just one tiny sampling for comparison, Nos 26 and 27 from Book 2, the former marked moderato, where Bach toys with the pulse and Kocsis is straighter in that respect but subtly splits chords (also a tendency in Bartok's own playing), whereas in the following playful Allegremente, Bach's tempo is roughly twice that of Kocsis's. What I'm referring to here is 'swings and roundabouts', a fairly appropriate metaphor in the case of For Children, but also musically apt. By contrast, in the two closing pieces both pianists capture the music's elegiac spirit to perfection.

Bach's approach, which has illuminated Bartok's bigger-scale piano works in earlier volumes of the same series, is aimed at countering the perceived notion of Bartok as 'remorselessly harsh' (his term). Rather than follow the more aggressive trend set by certain of his contemporaries, he takes a significant prompt from Bartok's own playing as captured on the numerous recordings that he left us (studio and broadcast). …

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