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

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WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Piano Concerto No. 3
PERFORMER: Jenö Jandó (piano)Budapest SO/András Ligeti
It may appear presumptuous to claim that only Hungarian-born musicians are able to empathise fully with the music of such a universally acknowledged master as Bartók. But in the case of the three piano concertos, I would have to single out the recordings made by György Sándor, Géza Anda and Zoltán Kocsis as being among the most idiomatic of all available interpretations. Jenö Jandó also qualifies for this status. He enjoys the added benefits of outstanding orchestral playing and more up-to-date engineering than any of his rivals. Quite simply these are superb performances which remain alive to every subtle nuance in Bartók’s writing. The fast movements in the First and Second Concertos are delivered with exhilarating rhythmic power and digital precision. But Jandó is equally convincing in the more reflective sections of these works – the ‘night music’ section of the slow movement of the Second Concerto is wonderfully atmospheric, as is the seemingly instinctive phrasing of the wistful melody that opens the lyrical Third Concerto. This latter work, composed right at the end of Bartók’s life, appears to mark a reaction against the more percussive writing of its predecessors. But Jandó’s unusually forthright account of the finale persuades me that such notions may well be misguided. This is a marvellous bargain, and surely one of the very best discs in Naxos’s current catalogue. Erik Levi