Written over a span of nearly 20 years, Bartók's three piano concertos were composed not at the behest of other performers as the violin and viola concertos were, but for the composer himself. Much like the virtuoso composer/performers of earlier generations, Bartók composed his three monumental concertos to take on concert tours and, of course, to generate income. Each of the concertos closely adheres to the Classical three-movement structure exemplified by Beethoven, even concluding each work with a rondo movement. The motivic development, use of modes, and incorporation of other musical forms is all Bartók's own. This Chandos album of the three Bartók concertos features pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet who completed an immensely successful complete survey of the Debussy complete solo piano works. Though Debussy and Bartók are stylistically quite different, the attributes that so distinguished his Debussy performances -- broad range of colors, meticulously controlled touch, transparent articulation, effortless control of tempo -- make for brilliant Bartók as well. Accompanied by the BBC Philharmonic under Gianandrea Noseda, Bartók's muscular orchestral writing and continuous dialogue (or arguments, as the case may be) between soloist and orchestra are seamless and cohesive. Even during the most brash, forceful brass fanfares, Noseda maintains a keen sense of balance that always allows Bavouzet's powerful sound to ring through. Conversely, the intimate, hushed sound quality achieved in the Second Concerto's Adagio is enough to make listeners want to hold their breath. After listening to such satisfying performances, listeners will be left hoping that Chandos has more plans for Bavouzet and Bartók.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Piano Concerto No. 1, BB 91|
|Piano Concerto No. 2, BB 101|
|Piano Concerto No. 3, BB 127|