James Ehnes / Andrew Armstrong

Bartók: Works for Violin and Piano

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Following his 2012 Chandos release of the numbered rhapsodies and sonatas of Béla Bartók, James Ehnes presents a second volume that presents the masterful Sonata for Solo Violin, BB 124, along with less significant works for violin and piano. The sonata was written in 1944 on a commission from Yehudi Menuhin, and as Bartók's last composition for the instrument, it reflects his accumulated knowledge of string writing and the organic development of ideas over his lifetime. Indeed, listeners familiar with the indispensable six string quartets and the Music for strings, percussion, and celesta may well recognize certain expressions, motives, forms, and techniques, as if this solo work in all its compression and austerity was actually a distillation or final working out of those works' essential material. After hearing this extraordinary piece, listeners may find the Sonata in E minor, BB 28, to be a bit of a let down. Composed in 1903, it is young man's music and rather more suggestive of the influence of Richard Strauss than of Bartók's maturity, though it is pleasurable in its fin de siècle languor and passion. The Hungarian Folksongs, BB 109, the Hungarian Folk Tunes, and the Romanian Folk Dances are Bartók's personalized arrangements of material he had gathered in his research of eastern European indigenous music, and there is much delightful artistry in them. Ehnes and his accompanist, Andrew Armstrong, are engaging and surprisingly competitive in these performances, and their playing makes even the briefest tracks worthwhile. But the highlight of the CD is still the solo sonata, where Ehnes truly shines.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Sonata for Solo Violin, BB 124
1 09:05 Amazon
2 04:19 Amazon
3 07:13 Amazon
4 05:05 Amazon
Sonata in E minor, BB 28
5 09:39 Amazon
6 10:53 Amazon
7 09:31 Amazon
Hungarian Folksongs, BB 109
8 01:30 Amazon
9 00:28 Amazon
10 01:17 Amazon
11 00:59 Amazon
12 01:35 Amazon
13 00:26 Amazon
14 00:34 Amazon
15 01:19 Amazon
16 00:59 Amazon
Hungarian Folk Tunes
17 01:05 Amazon
18 00:55 Amazon
19 01:34 Amazon
20 01:32 Amazon
21 00:41 Amazon
22 00:54 Amazon
23 00:57 Amazon
Romanian Folk Dances
24 01:13 Amazon
25 00:26 Amazon
26 00:58 Amazon
27 01:18 Amazon
28 00:30 Amazon
29 00:57 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick