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Bartok: 14 Bagatelles... / Jeno Jando

Release Date: 04/29/2014 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 573224   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Béla Bartók
Performer:  Jénö Jandó
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BARTÓK 14 Bagatelles, BB 50. 9 Little Piano Pieces, BB 90. 3 Piano Pieces, D45: No. 1. 3 Piano Pieces, D53: No. 2, Adagio; No 1, Intermezzo. Scherzo , D50. Rhapsody , op. 1 Jeno Read more Jandó (pn) 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 Mikrokosmos , 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 14 Bagatelles 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 ( Fanfare 37:6).

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

Collectors who’ve appreciated Jenö Jandó’s stylish authority throughout the first six volumes of Naxos’ Bartók solo piano music cycle will find no surprises with Volume Seven. The pianist begins with a masterful account of the Op. 6 Bagatelles. He characterizes No. 1’s folk-like melodic line and deadpan descending scales with timbral distinction, and assiduously gauges the tiny ritards in the mainly motoric Nos. 2 and 5. The lyrical No. 12’s repeated notes don’t quite evoke a cimbalom to the effect of György Sandor’s old recording, but the harmonic tension hits harder than in Zoltan Kocsis’ suaver, slower reading, while Jandó’s swinging vehemence in the No. 14 Valse arguably provides a more dramatic conclusion than the composer intended. And why not, it works!

His solid rhythmic sense and forceful linear projection help color and contour the Nine Little Pieces; listen in particular to his punchy and vivacious way with the Allegro Vivace (No. 4). The disc’s remaining selections all date from Bartók’s youth, and we can hear the budding composer working Brahms’ full-bodied textures out of his system in the Adagio and Scherzo. Listeners familiar with the Op. 1 Rhapsody in its final extended incarnation for piano and orchestra will be curious to hear an earlier, shorter solo version packed with massive chords and cascading octaves that suggest a mutation of Franck and Liszt. Jandó’s bravura performance casts inhibition to the wind without losing the slightest control. As with previous releases in this series, the sonics are on the boxy side, and turn strident during loud moments.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Little Pieces (9) for Piano, Sz 82 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Jénö Jandó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; Budapest, Hungary 
Bagatelles (14) for Piano, Op. 6/Sz 38 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Jénö Jandó (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; Budapest, Hungary 

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