This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Exquisite performances recorded over an extraordinarily long period, though fully equal - in musical terms - to the rest of Kocsis's superb Bartok series.
Kocsis's latest solo Bartok programme for Philips reveals the versicoloured fundamentals of the composer's harmonic language, from the smoky near-Impressionism of the Seven Sketches to the Miraculous Mandarin sound-alikes squatting at the centre of the Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs (Nos 5 and 6). The 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs are filled with longing or playfulness, the 10 Easy Pieces with the simplest ideas, strategically employed.
Being mainly aphoristic and economical in nature, most of these pieces call for profoundly centred
thinking, minutely calculated rubato and judicious timing. Kocsis scores on all fronts, even though the Sketches, Peasant Songs and Improvisations were recorded as long ago as 1980 - that's some 18 years before the Three Burlesques and 10 Easy Pieces. Strange to relate - and while I sense just a touch more interpretative freedom on the later sessions - the sheer consistency of the playing is remarkable. The sound also matches well (Henry Wood Hall for the analogue tapes, Friedrich Ebert Hall, Hamburg for their digital companions), though the later piano image is richer in texture.
Just a couple more points worth noting. First, for those glancing quickly at the contents, the Seven Sketches are in no way related to the orchestral Hungarian Sketches, although three other pieces on the disc are: 'Slightly Tipsy' (the second Burlesque), 'Evening in Transylvania' and 'Bear Dance' (the fifth and tenth of the 10 Easy Pieces). Kocsis brings a rapt sense of stillness to the first of the Easy Pieces (actually No '0', a 'Dedication' that precedes the main sequence) and sculpted eloquence to 'Evening in Transylvania'. Here I should also mention Gyorgy Sandor on Sony who is particularly expressive in the exquisite piano tone-poems (this CD is full of them), no less so than in his earlier recordings for Vox (2/64 - nla). He, too, deserves to be heard.
Whether or not Kocsis goes on to add the piano Dance Suite and four-hand works (Miraculous Mandarin ballet, Second Suite) to his series remains to be seen. I sincerely hope that he does, but even if he doesn't, his Bartok legacy stands out as one of the true pinnacles of the recorded piano repertoire - from any period.
-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone [5/2000]
Works on This Recording
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