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.
Études are primarily intended as exercises to train musicians in specific techniques, but since the Romantic era they have become associated with other miniature forms, such as the prelude and the intermezzo, and frequently regarded as evocative character pieces or tonal pictures. Garrick Ohlsson's album of piano études by Claude Debussy, Sergey Prokofiev, and Béla Bartók offers a brief survey of the genre in modern practice, and demonstrates the blending of pedagogy and poetry in these works. Ohlsson has become internationally known as an exquisite interpreter of the music of Frédéric Chopin, and much of the subtlety and atmosphere found in his previous recordings is present here. Ohlsson's finesse and humor are perhaps most evident in Debussy's Études, L. 143, which have a lighter character than Prokofiev's Études, Op. 2, which tend toward the sardonic side, and Bartók's Études, Op. 18, which are intensely virtuosic and mysterious. Hyperion's recording captures the nuances of Ohlsson's playing, and the piano is close enough to hear every detail, while the acoustics lend it a pleasant natural aura.
The New York Times has praised violinist Miranda Cuckson’s “undeniable musicality,” while Gramophone has declared her “an artist to be reckoned with.” Born in Australia and educated in America, she makes her ECM New Series debut – alongside pianist Blair McMillen – with three 20th-century milestones: the Hungarian Béla Bartók’s Violin Sonata No. 2 (1922), the Russian Alfred Schnittke’s Violin Sonata No. 2 “Quasi una Sonata” (1968) and the Pole Witold Lutoslawski’s Partita for Violin and Piano (1984).
Mozart, who composed 21 piano concerti, can be regarded as the “inventor” of the popular piano concerto. Although J.S. Bach and his son had written numerous concerti for harpsichord or fortepiano and orchestra before him, Mozart’s enormous input to the genre is mostly due to his concerti being regarded as ‘popular music’ by his contemporaries: to be enjoyed and replaced quickly by newer works. For this series on four DVDs, the most influential, the most artistically challenging and the most popular piano concerti have been selected to be performed by the best Mozart interpreters of our time. The second volume features pianists André Previn, Zoltán Kocsis and Heidrun Holtmann performing the piano concerti Nos 1, 4, 23 and 24. The performances on this DVD were shot in highly attractive baroque venues – at the Teatro Scientifico del Bibiena in Mantua, in the Rittersaal of the Palais Waldstein in Prague and in the Grosse Galerie at Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna – capturing the atmosphere of Mozart’s lifetime.
This new version by the greatly-gifted young Hungarian pianist Zoltan Kocsis, again vindicates the contention that The Art of Fugue makes its best effect as a keyboard work, even if on a modern piano. For Kocsis Bach's intellectual and technical demands seem to pose no problems: his exposition of the polyphonic conversation, whether, two, three or four participants are involved, is always admirably lucid and enables each voice to have its say. This is no doubt helped by the rather dry quality of the Hungaroton/ Philips recording on LP (the CD is appreciably fuller and brighter), and by Kocsis's very discreet use of the sustaining pedal.