Bartok/Ravel

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bartok/Ravel
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Sonata for Two Pianos & Percussion; Ma mère l’oye; Rapsodie espagnole
PERFORMER: Martha Argerich, Nelson Freire (pianos), Peter Sadlo, Edgar Guggeis (percussion)
CATALOGUE NO: 439 867-2 DDD
The exhilarating Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion is one of Bartók’s seminal works – the logical outcome of his long-held fascination with percussive sonorities. Its direct antecedent is not so much the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste, in which the percussion plays a relatively subordinate role, as the First Piano Concerto, whose slow movement begins with no fewer than 70 bars for piano and percussion alone.

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This new version of the Sonata has much to recommend it – not least Martha Argerich’s dazzling virtuosity. Nelson Freire is not quite as adequate a match for her as Stephen Kovacevich was some years ago in a fine Philips recording (long since deleted): his playing just occasionally lacks focus.

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Rather more of a mixed blessing are the Ravel items – not the composer’s own duet or two-piano versions, but arrangements by Peter Sadlo incorporating some of the percussion writing found in Ravel’s orchestral scorings. As such, they occupy an uncomfortable halfway house between the alternative authentic forms. Good fun, undeniably, but ultimately a rather pointless exercise in which it is difficult not to feel that some of the innocent charm of the Mother Goose suite, in particular, has been sacrificed. Misha Donat