Bartok: Mirokosmos (Complete)

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COMPOSERS: Bartok
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Bartók
WORKS: Mirokosmos (Complete)
PERFORMER: Jeno Janó (piano); with Tamara Takács (mezzo-soprano), Baláza Szokolay (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557821-22
Bartók’s subtitle of ‘153 Progressive

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Piano Pieces’ says it all: these are

primarily teaching tools. And though

it’s fascinating to hear the complexity

increasing from the unison lines at

the beginning of Book 1 to the fuller

harmonies and greater rhythmic

diversity by the end of Book 3, the

first disc is rather austere listening

for the most part. But there are

some gems along the way – ‘In

Dorian Mode’ from Book 1, with

its hypnotically revolving two-part

Peerless Beethoven

michael tanner is excited by a new cycle by Arrau’s pupil

texture; or the wistful ‘Melody with

Accompaniment’ from Book 2.

Jandó sometimes tries too hard and

uses too much rubato in these tiny

pieces. More seriously, the piano isn’t

always in tune. These problems don’t

beset the competing pianists in the

catalogue, though Ránki is the only

one whose recording doesn’t come as

part of a larger CD set.

From Book 4, with the assumption

of a more wide-ranging piano

technique, there’s greater freedom of

invention. Also, in the two months

between the recording of the two

discs, the piano has been better

tuned. But, strangely, Jandó now

seems more reluctant to involve

himself with the music as opposed

to the notes, and there’s an air of

the mechanical about it, not helped

by the dry recording. Even the ‘Six

Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm’, which

end the final book, don’t have quite

the oomph that they should. So, even

though Jandó includes the pieces for

two pianos, or with voice, I’d still go

for Ránki’s more involved recording.

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Martin Cotton