Probably a majority of great composers sounded somehow like themselves even as teenagers. Beethoven did not sound like Haydn or Mozart, but like an imperfect version of himself very early on. Bartók was different, though: ask someone who knows only the big Bartók successes for an identification of the composer of these pieces and a correct guess is unlikely. These pieces fit into the tradition of Liszt and Richard Strauss, with the latter especially evident in the tone poem Kossuth. The work depicts a hero of the unsuccessful Hungarian Revolution of 1848, and Buffalo Philharmonic conductor JoAnn Falletta gives it the appropriate splashy energy. The Two Portraits are also programmatic, with the Ideal and Grotesque movements reflecting Bartók's pre- and post-breakup views of the violinist Stefi Geyer. The Suite No. 1, Op. 3, Sz. 60, feels the most like Bartók, although its rhythms are Viennese rather than Hungarian. This work was Bartók's first big success, and in Falletta's brisk, infectious reading it is easy to hear it with the ears of its first audiences. Classic recordings of these works from Antal Dorati and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra are available, but these are quite worthwhile, and Naxos gets sonically strong results from the orchestra's own Kleinhans Music Hall.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Two Portraits, Op. 5, Sz. 37|
|Suite No. 1, Op. 3, Sz. 60|