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

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COMPOSERS: Bartok
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Piano Concerto No. 3
PERFORMER: Yefim Bronfman (piano); Los Angeles PO/Esa-Pekka Salonen
CATALOGUE NO: SK 66718 DDD
These performances have many virtues, not least some brilliant playing from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and a natural recorded sound. Yefim Bronfman himself not only possesses the formidable technique required for the first two concertos but also brings a sensitivity to music which can in some hands seem too relentlessly percussive. Salonen helps both in characterising details and in shaping each movement as a whole; the sparkling exchanges between soloist and orchestra in the Scherzo that erupts into the middle of the Second Concerto’s slow movement provide but one example.

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The competition for single-disc couplings of Bartók’s three piano concertos is, however, rather strong; I counted at least five others currently available. The classic Géza Anda recordings of 1959-60 on DG and the recent Jenö Jandó on Naxos (both at budget price) are just the two most obvious rivals. Bronfman and Salonen seem almost tame beside Anda’s searing intensity, enhanced by a recording that, despite its age and artificial balance (by comparison with the present disc) takes advantage of this pianist’s long-established partnership with Ferenc Fricsay and positively revels in the details. Keith Potter