Three 20th-century orchestral scores, Bartók’s Two Pictures, Debussy’s Jeux and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, all dating from 1910-13 and all linked (as the detailed CD booklet explains), are brought to life in the hands of two exceptional French pianists. The central interest is the ballet Jeux. One of the world’s outstanding Debussy interpreters, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has added to his complete Chandos recordings with his own transcription for two pianos. Written late in Debussy’s life for Nijinsky, Jeux involves an emotionally erotic and harmonically daring game of tennis. Bavouzet and his well-matched partner, François-Fréderic Guy, play with nimble grace, capturing the works wit and mystery. This gripping album is dedicated to Pierre Boulez, guru and enabler, for his 90th birthday.
Over the years, Bartók’s two Violin Sonatas have enjoyed outstanding advocacy on disc, not least from Isabelle Faust and James Ehnes. This new, superbly recorded SACD release certainly matches, and in places exceeds, their white-hot intensity. Barnábas Kelemen and Zoltán Kocsis respond with almost improvisatory spontaneity to Bartók’s rhapsodic invention, yet ensure that the structural integrity of this tough and intellectually challenging music is never compromised…….Erik Levi @ classical-music.com
PentaTone’s magnificent multi-channel recording, engineered by the familiar Polyhymnia team of Job Maarse, Erdo Groot and Roger de Schot, avoids this trap and ensures that every section of the orchestral score is presented with outstanding clarity. The sound stage is wide with just the right amount of the ambience of the Victoria Hall, Geneva present to add an extra bloom to the overall sound. Arabella Steinbacher’s previous recordings of 20th century violin concertos have garnered worldwide praise and this latest one should further enhance the reputation of this young and exceptionally gifted musician. Very highly recommended.
At 1st sight, they appear to have nothing in common – but disregarding the stylistic elements & a difference of 2 centuries, you soon recognize that both are in a sense, musical architects, who as piano virtuosos were equally interested in miniature forms & inspired by folk music. On the 1 hand you have Scarlatti, who, after moving to Spain in 1729 composed almost exclusively for harpsichord & integrated elements of Spanish folklore into his compositions in an experimental way; on the other hand Bartk, who boosted the recognition of the rich native Hungarian peasant songs to an independent folk art, & was also influenced by Arabic folk music.
On Soli, Tamsin Waley-Cohen's 2015 release on Signum Classics, the violinist explores modernist repertoire composed between 1944 and 2005. Because these solo violin pieces by Béla Bartók, George Benjamin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Elliott Carter, and György Kurtág are challenging for both the player and the listener, one should approach this CD with some awareness that they reflect different phases of the avant-garde movement that dominated music in the last half of the 20th century. In quieter selections where the moods are primarily brooding or lyrical, Waley-Cohen produces a vibrant tone and smooth phrasing that make her playing easy to appreciate, even when the music isn't recognizably tonal. However, in louder, dissonant passages, notably in sections of the Bartók Sonata, Benjamin's Canon for Sally, Carter's Remembering Aaron, and Kurtág's Anziksz Kellerannanak, the close microphone placement makes her bowing sound overly resinous and scratchy, which can be hard to enjoy. Even so, few violinists dare approach this bracing material, and Waley-Cohen is to be commended for devoting a whole album to such cutting-edge pieces solely on her terms, without making compromises.