COMPOSERS: Bela Bartók
ALBUM TITLE: Bartók
WORKS: Sonata for two pianos and percussion; Etudes, Op. 18; Three Hungarian folksongs from the Csik District; Three Rondos on Slovak Folk Tunes; Sonatina; Piano Sonata
PERFORMER: Cédric Tiberghien, François-Frédéric Guy (piano), Colin Currie, Sam Walton (percussion)
CATALOGUE NO: Hyperion CDA 68153
The latest instalment of Cédric Tiberghien’s Bartók recording cycle is as outstanding as all the others, ranging from modest folk-song arrangements to the full-on glory of the Sonata for two pianos and percussion. As the liner-notes by David Cooper (author of an excellent new biography of Bartók) make clear, songs collected by the composer here underpin very directly the works which they inspired: peasant piping techniques are evoked in the Sonatina, for example, while the accompaniment to the ‘Bear dance’ consists of minimal chordal adornments to the melodic line.
On the other hand, serious virtuosity is demanded by the three Etudes, the second of which suggests Debussy being put through a wayward and unpredictable exploration of texture and tonality; the third changes its metre crazily, with its melody split between the hands and played by the thumbs. Tiberghien meets all the technical challenges in these pieces with seeming effortlessness. His touch is pellucid, and he knows how to bring out the charm of Bartók’s arrangements; every grace note is given due weight, and the sustaining pedal is used to make simple effects more resonant; when Bartók’s games with tonality grow complex, he renders them with relaxed playfulness.
The Sonata for two pianos and percussion comes across as the triumphal summation of Bartók’s oeuvre, and François-Frédéric Guy with Colin Currie and Sam Walton join Tiberghien in a brilliant symbiosis. The speed with which the Allegro molto goes sees no slip in precision, the richly-peopled nocturnal world of the Lento is lovingly rendered, and the leapingly exuberant finale disappears in a flurry of scales, tremolos, and dying whispers on the side-drum.