Barber • Bartók

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Barber,Bartok
ALBUM TITLE: Barber • Bartók
WORKS: Barber: Piano Concerto; Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 3; Jarrett: Tokyo Encore (Nothing but the Truth)
PERFORMER: Keith Jarrett (piano); Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra/Dennis Russell Davies; New Japan Philharmonic/Kazuyoshi Akiyama

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For once the cliché is justified: this is emphatically a disc of two halves. It starts competently enough with a performance of Barber’s Concerto in which Keith Jarrett, Dennis Russell Davies, and the Saarbrücken orchestra give a crisply intelligent account of this work which – as Paul Griffiths points out in his liner-note – successfully marries post-Romanticism and post-serialism. Jarrett’s first-movement sallies are spiky and challenging, and he and his orchestra work as one to convey scurrying urgency and burning eloquence. Jarrett’s passagework has a glittering edge, and he gives the music an exhilaratingly improvisatory feel.

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For Bartók’s Third Concerto with Kazuyoshi Akiyama and his New Japan orchestra, the story is very different: first-time listeners really wouldn’t know this was the most bewitchingly Romantic music Bartók ever wrote. There’s no trace of magic in the first movement, no delicacy in the phrasing from either orchestra or soloist, no sense of wonder in the sudden changes of register and key. If Jarrett betrays some awareness of the Beethovenian vision in the Adagio religioso, nobody else does; the peasant dance is slack and pallid in the extreme. Jarrett’s Tokyo Encore purveys the sweetly unthreatening stuff his fans love, but in no way atones for what preceded it. Over five solid minutes of this short CD consist of audience applause. Michael Church