Uri Pianka / Jonathan Zak

Bartók: Sonata No. 1 for Violin & Piano; Sonata No. 2 for Violin & Piano

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Bartók's contributions to the repertoire of "traditional" for solo instrument and piano are limited to the two sonatas for violin and piano heard here. The two pieces were composed in an astoundingly short period of time between 1921 and 1922, around the same time as his highly successful Miraculous Mandarin. Composed for friend and violinist Jelly d'Aranyi, the two sonatas flirt continuously with atonality, explore a broad palate of colors and techniques on the violin, and redefine the piano's role in sonata playing. This Romeo Records album features violinist Uri Pianka and pianist Jonathan Zak. Pianka's playing, which is continuously at the forefront of the recording, is intense, focused, and energetic. His immaculate control of vibrato produces a wealth of different timbres and moods and his right-arm technique delivers everything from delightfully gruff string buzzes to hushed, whispered tones. Intonation is generally solid, although problems sometimes arise in large, cross-string arpeggios in the instrument's higher registers. Zak is a sensitive and nicely compatible accompanist for these works, although the tone of his instrument is somewhat lacking in bass. Overall sound quality of the album is good, although the stereo imaging is sometimes a bit peculiar as the violin seems to jump back and forth between the left and right channels.

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