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Hungarian Horizon / Valentina Toth

Release Date: 07/09/2013 
Label:  Challenge   Catalog #: 72522   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Béla BartókZoltán Kodály
Performer:  Valentina Tóth
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Four minute video of pianist Valentina Tóth. Spoken in Dutch with musical excerpts from this album.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

BARTÓK 14 Bagatelles. Three Hungarian Folksongs from Csík. KODÁLY Seven Piano Pieces. Dances of Marosszek Valentina Tóth (pn) CHALLENGE 608917252224 (64:40)

Teenager Valentina Tóth makes a strong—even stunning—impression on this debut album, which, from first note to last, reveals not only a sure technique but, more important, an unfailing musical Read more imagination. What’s most striking, I think, is her quick reaction time. This is generally mercurial music, the Bartók Bagatelles especially; but Tóth leaps nimbly through her recital, capturing each shift of gesture, color, and spirit with unerring deftness. The whimsicality of the Seventh Bagatelle; the solemn grandeur of “Epitaph” (the fourth of the Kodály pieces), with its reminiscences of Debussy’s Cathédrale engloutie ; the skittishness of the 11th Bagatelle; the dark intensity that opens the Dances of Marosszek ; the sunny upbeat innocence of the Fifth Bagatelle; the stern waves of sound in the climax of “Székely Tune,” the sixth of the Kodály pieces—it’s hard to imagine this music being played with greater attention to its variety of utterance.

Or, for that matter, with greater subtlety. Tóth is no barn burner—rather, she displays a splendid sensitivity to the music’s harmonic flavor (listen, as but one example, to the treatment of the bittersweet harmonies in the fifth and sixth measure of the Fourth Bagatelle) and to its rhythmic give and take (note how flexibly she navigates the dizzying shifts in meter and tempo in the 12th Bagatelle, or how expertly she mimics the improvisatory feel of the Three Hungarian Folksongs). Her handling of color and articulation is consistently perceptive, too, with the quieter passages notable for their shading; textures are well elucidated, in a way that clarifies superimposed rhythmic gestures; and while she has plenty of drive in the more motoric passages, she never falls into banging. Most of this music is folk-oriented—and throughout the recital, she gives the music’s filigree and ornamentation an infectious elasticity.

Fine sound, too; the only downside is the presentation. It’s not simply that the liner notes—in the form of an interview/biography—are slightly dippy (“Playing makes me happy”). More disappointing is the way that the album art tries to channel the most familiar icons of Tóth’s namesake Valentina Lisitsa. As long-time readers know, I’m a great admirer of Lisitsa, too (see my interview in Fanfare 23:2), but Tóth’s style is quite a bit less vehement than Lisitsa’s, and there’s little to be gained by encouraging the comparison. A minor blemish, though, on a fabulous release.

FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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Works on This Recording

Bagatelles (14) for Piano, Op. 6/Sz 38 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Valentina Tóth (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 07/2012/01/2013 
Venue:  Großer Lindensaal, Markkleeberg, Germany 
Length: 22 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Pieces (7) for Piano, Op. 11 by Zoltán Kodály
Performer:  Valentina Tóth (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910-1918; Hungary 
Date of Recording: 07/2012/01/2013 
Venue:  Großer Lindensaal, Markkleeberg, Germany 
Length: 22 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Dances of Marosszék by Zoltán Kodály
Performer:  Valentina Tóth (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Hungary 
Date of Recording: 07/2012/01/2013 
Venue:  Großer Lindensaal, Markkleeberg, Germany 
Length: 12 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Hungarian Folksongs from Csík (3) (Három Csík megyei népdal), for piano, Sz. 35a, BB 45b by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Valentina Tóth (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1907; Hungary 
Date of Recording: 07/2012/01/2013 
Venue:  Großer Lindensaal, Markkleeberg, Germany 
Length: 3 Minutes 31 Secs. 

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