Bartok: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Piano Concerto No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Bartok
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Piano Concerto No. 3
PERFORMER: András Schiff (piano) Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-13158-2
Bartók’s three piano concertos, which fit neatly onto one CD, are here played by an all-Hungarian line-up. András Schiff, who counts this composer amongst his specialities, recalls in a booklet note the centrality of Bartók’s Mikrokosmos and other works for students to his own musical education.

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Throughout these performances Schiff’s familiar virtues are evident: the clarity of his tone, his decisiveness of attack, irreproachable fingerwork and strong sense of internal balance. But what one might term the objectivity of his approach occasionally undermines the music’s sheer power, as in the rumbustious finale of the First Concerto, or the heavily scored opening movement of the Second. The latter, however expertly voiced within the piano part itself, registers here with an almost Mendelssohnian lightness. Conversely, Schiff’s delicacy of accent and rubato suits the lucid, more ‘Classical’ Third Concerto very well.

Orchestrally, there is impressive playing from all departments, while under Iván Fischer’s direction the precision of ensemble makes up for a certain lack of personality in the actual presentation of the music.

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It’s slightly ironic that the main strengths of these performances – their cleanness and translucence – should be somewhat compromised by dulled, bass-heavy sound. George Hall