COMPOSERS: Bela Bartók
WORKS: Piano Sonata; Seven Skhes; 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs; Suite, Op. 14
PERFORMER: Jeno Jandó (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554717
Some of Bartók’s solo piano music, including the same 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs here, is already available on Naxos played by Balázs Szokolay. Ours is not to reason why the present disc is announced as Vol. 1. It plunges straight into the familiar ‘classic’ Bartók with the punchy Sonata of 1926 – one of the few more broadly scaled solo pieces he wrote. It’s followed by another important work, the Suite, Op. 14, of 1916, then by sets of shorter folk-inspired pieces or folksong arrangements. Bartók’s folk music research is usually regarded as a sort of sacred mission. With hindsight, it’s possible that more was lost than gained by it, for Bartók killed the thing he loved by destroying its earthiness and smartening it up for the 20th century. Inevitably, his arrangements have an antiseptic quality. And by ‘renewing’ his own music he sacrificed much of its earlier richness. But paring down is something composers often do as they grow older and it’s useless regretting it. You don’t have to be Hungarian to play Bartók’s music convincingly, but Jeno Jandó seems born to it and strikes the ideal balance between impact and clarity.