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It should be said at once that June de Toth is equally effective when lacerating or enchanting us. Her tonal range is impressive, and she accomplishes the rich variety of the exigent Bartók with a sure touch, percussive and unyielding where required, subtle and indeed moving in the tiniest folk-tune miniature. It is a magisterial achievement. The 1926 piano sonata comes near the beginning of her scheme, and its grinding harshness is what most might expect from Bartók at the keyboard [listen -- CD1 track 8, 3:22-4:44]. For the rest, it is perhaps instructive to follow a chronological rather than Tothian sequence.

This is certainly not the complete Bartók piano music. Apart from a multitude of early works since lost, many pieces remain unpublished; but this comprises a representative selection. It was Bartók's 1905 meeting with Kodály that first directed him towards the systematic collection of folk tunes from Hungary and neighbouring countries. Two years later he started their publication, and in 1908-10 came Seven Sketches, with the beguiling 'See Saw, Dickory Daw' as No 2, playful enough to intrigue and entertain any child [listen -- CD1 track 2, 0:00-0:49]. It happens also to be the briefest piece in the whole recital.

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Copyright © 1 December 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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