Bartók: Two Romanian Dances, Op. 8a; Improvisations on Hungarian peasant songs, Op. 20; Out of Doors; 14 Bagatelles, Op. 6
Florent Boffard (piano)
Mirare MIR 410 59:19 mins
The album’s title, Racines (‘Roots’), refers to Bartók’s musical hinterland, but especially to his explorations of Hungarian folk music. Between 1904 and 1917 he and Kodály spent the summers travelling through the countryside of a Hungary that was a lot bigger, pre-Treaty of Trianon, than it is today; there they recorded on a cumbersome yet effective device the songs of local peasants.
The musical language of Hungarian folksong permeated Bartók’s music thereafter – whether he presented a faithful transcription of a song or dance (as in the Two Romanian Dances), or took on board the rhythmic and harmonic patterns as transformable raw material for his own inimitable soundworld. This album, from the excellent French pianist Florent Boffard, includes examples of all these approaches. Boffard strikes an excellent balance between Bartók’s different worlds. Sinuously contoured melodies are played with an excellent singing tone; there is a proud, fine-sprung quality to the dance rhythms, plenty of contrast drawn out of the brief, sometimes startling ‘Improvisations’ and oodles of atmosphere, especially in Out of Doors, with its eerie Night Music third movement. Recorded in Grenoble’s Maison de la Culture, the sound quality is close and warm, if very slightly dry.