Notes and Editorial Reviews
9 Little Piano Pieces,
3 Piano Pieces,
D45: No. 1.
3 Piano Pieces,
D53: No. 2,
No 1, Intermezzo.
NAXOS 8.573224 (62:55)
Jeno Jandó has been Naxos’s house pianist for decades, recording the sonatas and concertos of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven; cutting wide swaths through Liszt, Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms; and touching on others from Bach to Rachmaninoff. One notices the absence of anything that could be called modern, but Jandó has also covered the music of his great countryman extensively, with four solo piano discs plus the complete
, as well as the concertos and much chamber music—all to rather mixed reviews. These recordings, made in August 2012 and January 2013, are of works new to Jandó’s discography.
The titles may suggest that this CD is simply a mopping up of minor pieces, but I would strongly disagree. Bartók wrote the
in 1908, when he was in transition from being a competent, interesting post-Romantic composer to being Béla Bartók. It is said that he was suffering from a final rejection by his beloved Stefi Geyer, but I am always skeptical of the supposed connection between a composer’s emotional state and his music (think of Beethoven’s “Heiligenstadt Testament” and his buoyant, joyous Second Symphony). The bagatelles show Bartók feeling his oats, expanding his range harmonically and rhythmically. The character of the music also varies from piece to piece: funny, grave, wistful, impish, quirky, solid, ethereal. These 25 minutes are as enjoyable as any other set of Bartók piano pieces. The booklet quotes Ferruccio Busoni on the bagatelles: “At last, something really new!” That sense of freshness and adventure remains today, and Jandó captures it nicely. Zoltán Kocsis or György Sándor may be more trenchant (“may” because my LPs and CDs are momentarily unavailable during a house move), but you can’t go wrong here.
Written in Bartók’s maturity (1926), the
Nine Little Piano Pieces
are also atypical. Bartók wrote them to assist his own career as a concert pianist. The music is self-consciously formal, a cousin of Stravinsky’s Neoclassical and Hindemith’s neo-Baroque efforts; many of the opening themes suggest a Bach fugue subject. The music is still Bartók, however, so it is never less than interesting, and it rises to a thoroughly Bartókian peroration. Jandó’s playing is ideally clear, and Naxos’s recorded sound is bright if a bit reverberant; memory suggests that other pianists on record may have made more of these pieces, but Jandó seems more attuned to the music than Andor Foldes (
The next four tracks are devoted to excerpts from very early works, c. 1897, when Bartók was 16. The D 45 excerpt is an imitation of Liszt. The following three are like Brahms on steroids; play them for your next party guessing games. The usually conservative Jandó lets fly in the marvelous Scherzo. Wow! Early or not, derivative or not, this is stunning music. The op. 1 Rhapsody is presented in its shortened solo-piano version, the least objectionable form of this Lisztian clone.
It always helps not to expect much. I was—and remain—captivated by this disc.
FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 1. Molto sostenuto
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 2. Allegro giocoso
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 3. Andante
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 4. Grave
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 5. Vivo
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 6. Lento
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 7. Allegretto molto capriccioso
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 8. Andante sostenuto
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 9. Allegretto grazioso
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 10. Allegro
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 11. Allegretto molto rubato
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 12. Rubato
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 13. (Elle est morte...): Lento funebre
14 Bagatelles, Op. 6, BB 50: No. 14. Valse (M'amie qui danse...): Presto
9 Little Piano Pieces, BB 90: Book 1: 4 Dialogues: No. 1. Moderato
9 Little Piano Pieces, BB 90: Book 1: 4 Dialogues: No. 2. Andante
9 Little Piano Pieces, BB 90: Book 1: 4 Dialogues: No. 3. Lento
9 Little Piano Pieces, BB 90: Book 1: 4 Dialogues: No. 4. Allegro vivace
9 Little Piano Pieces, BB 90: Book 2: No. 5. Menuetto: Moderato
9 Little Piano Pieces, BB 90: Book 2: No. 6. Dal (Air): Allegro
9 Little Piano Pieces, BB 90: Book 2: No. 7. Marcia delle bestie: Comodo
9 Little Piano Pieces, BB 90: Book 2: No. 8. Csorgo-tanc (Tambourine): Allegro molto
9 Little Piano Pieces, BB 90: Book 3: No. 9. Preludio - All' ungherese: Molto moderato - Allegro non troppo, molto ritmico
3 Klavierstucke, BB 8: No. 1 in B minor
3 Klavierstucke, BB 14: No. 2. Adagio
3 Klavierstucke, BB 14: No. 1. Intermezzo
Scherzo (Fantasie) in B Major, BB 11
Rhapsody, Op. 1, BB 36a (shortened version)
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