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Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Complete Works for Piano Solo - Volume 4
For Children, Sz. 42 BB 53
Andreas Bach (piano)
rec. WDR Funkhaus Köln, 2010

I remember being slightly disappointed with Andreas Bach’s last recording in this series (review), in which I found his depiction of the folk-inspired movements a little lacking. I found his approach a little Germanic, when compared to the performance of Zoltán Kocsis (DG 4782364). I am glad to say that here with the four books of For Children, Bach once again returns to top form.

Originally composed in 1908-1909, the four original books contained some 85 pieces based upon Hungarian and Slovak folk tunes, composed as teaching aids for his pupils. He later realised that six of the pieces were in fact original compositions and not folk melodies, so in 1943 he revised the set, removing the six pieces in question and also altering a few of the pieces in the cycle, which although keeping its four books, was published in two volumes. Although originally designed as graduated teaching pieces, pianists, beginning with Zoltán Kocsis, started to see the value of the individual pieces and began programming them in their concert programs.

Andreas Bach’s performance is strong; he seems to have a more measured approach to these folk-inspired pieces than to those on Volume 3. His performance stands up to close scrutiny when compared with that of Zoltán Kocsis, indeed there are times when I prefer Bach to Kocsis, with Bach offering a less subjective view at times. A big selling point is that apart from items 36 and 37, Rhapsody - Parando, molto rubato, Allegro moderato, which are banded together, every piece is given a separate track, something that Zoltán Kocsis fails on, only offering 27 tracks in total for both volumes.

The recorded sound is excellent, as are the booklet notes by László Vikárius, the Head of the Budapest Bartók Archives; as always in this series they are informative and detailed, offering insight into the composer and his music. There may be no rare and premier recordings of pieces included here, as is the case on previous volumes, but here Bach is back on track to produce an excellent series of the complete solo piano music of Bartók.

Stuart Sillitoe



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