French Bartók? Isn't that a contradiction in terms? After all, doesn't French mean smooth, refined, and elegant? And doesn't Bartók mean raw, angular, and brutal? Yes and no. French, modernist French, can also mean hard, harsh, and edgy, and Bartók, at least some Bartók, can also mean cool, considered, and concentrated. In this two-disc set of piano music recorded between 1974 and 1976, French modernist piano player Michel Béroff meets Hungarian modernist composer Bartók, and, perhaps to the amazement of some, finds common ground. Béroff's tone is big, his touch is muscular, and his sense of rhythm is rock solid, all qualities that fit Bartók to a T. Listen to Béroff launch intoRead more the sets of Romanian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian dances that start off the set, listen to his fierce attacks, his keen accents, and his propulsive rhythms: is this not Bartók playing of the first rank? Then listen to Béroff tear into the sonata and the sonatina that follows, listen to his masterful sforzandos, his magisterial cross-rhythms, and his complete command of asymmetrical form: is this not Bartók playing of the highest order? And while it's true the Béroff may come down a bit too hard on the Ten Easy Pieces and the selections from For Children, no one could debate his intensity or his dedication. For listeners used to Hungarian pianists playing Bartók, Béroff may seem perhaps too French at first, but anyone with a fondness for the Hungarian composer will surely come to appreciate Béroff's virtuoso technique and his modernist approach. EMI's late stereo recordings are clear, warm, and honest.