Huguette Dreyfus

Bartók: Microcosmos

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Given sufficient time, one can get used to anything, even the sound of Bartók being played on a harpsichord. In the case of this 1969 recording by Huguette Dreyfus of selections from Microcosmos, a sufficient amount of time is about two minutes because the sound of Bartók played on a harpsichord is at first a shock to the nervous system. But after about two minutes, it starts to sound so right, as if the pungent and percussive sounds of Bartók's Microcosmos were intended to be played on a harpsichord. And indeed they were: Bartók indicated in the score that at least half of the pieces from Microcosmos could be played on a harpsichord and left the rest up to the player. And while the notion seems outré, the amazing thing is, Bartók's right. There's a clarity and a color and above all a linearity to the music that makes it sound absolutely ideal on a harpsichord. The more amazing thing about this recording is the playing of Huguette Dreyfus. Her playing is light, frisky, and playful. Her interpretations are funny, tender, and sweet. Her rhythms are alive, alert, and funky. She sounds like she's playing Bartók, the modern master of asymmetrical rhythms and acerbic dissonances, and not Bach with wrong notes, and best of all, she sounds like she's enjoying herself immensely. Harmonia Mundi's stereo sound was marvelously clear and vivid in its days and the digital remastering preserves and enhances these qualities.

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