This collection of Béla Bartók's piano music offers a generous program of some of the most influential keyboard works of the 20th century, expertly played by Alain Planès. Making a clean break from the lush and sentimental parlor music of the fin de siècle, Bartók introduced a drier, muscular style, incorporating lively folk rhythms from Eastern Europe, pungent dissonances, percussive sonorities, and novel techniques that made the piano sound exciting and vital in modern music. Planès plays with extraordinary vitality, so his performances here are exciting and invigorating, while at the same time observant of all of the subtleties and soft qualities that made Bartók's music poetic and deeply expressive. This CD opens with one of Bartók's most revolutionary works, Dance Suite, which put him on the map as a modernist and made him the leading Hungarian composer of his time. This is followed by the Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs and Four Old Songs, a block of pieces that shows the great variety of styles and melodic inflections in folk music that became his chief resources. Perhaps the most advanced work is the acerbic Piano Sonata, both in terms of its daring dissonances and formal mastery, typical of his most important music of the 1920s. The collection is rounded out by the Six Romanian Folk Dances, which are similar to the Hungarian pieces heard earlier, and the Fourteen Bagatelles, which encapsulate in miniature many of his innovations. Harmonia Mundi's recording is top notch, with great clarity and presence without excessively close microphone placement.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Dance Suite, Sz 77|
|Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs, Sz 71|
|Piano Sonata, Sz 80|
|Six Romanian Folk Dances, Sz 56|
|Fourteen Bagatelles, Op. 6, Sz 38|