<< -- 3 -- Robert Anderson REVELATORY SUCCESS
Bartók's humour is equally apparent in the second of the Fourteen
Bagatelles, in which the keyboard writing is adroit and testing
[listen -- CD3 track 18, 0:00-0:47].
But for me the core of the whole collection, in which Bartók achieves a
Schumannesque imagination, coupled with a gnomic grace and harmonic simplicity that
constantly enthrals, are the two For Children sets (1908-9). They contain 42
Hungarian folk songs and 43 Slovakian. Each is a miracle of craftsmanship, such as
'My little graceful girl' in the first set
[listen -- CD2 track 21, 0:00-1:21].
But my favourites are the Slovakian, where the plangent harmonies and simple cadences
tug at the heart. Choice is impossible, but the 'Rogue's Song' might win, if only
because I like rogues
[listen -- CD4 track 7, 0:00-1:01].
Romanian carols for Christmas were arranged in 1915. Again choice is difficult,
but the first Andante can do duty for the rest
[listen -- CD4 track 51, 0:00-0:48].
From the same bitter war year comes more Romanian music, and notably a piece that has
attracted many subsequent arrangements. This is the bewitching 'Dance with Sticks'
[listen -- CD3 track 1, 0:00-1:05].
It is perhaps necessary to face if not embrace the post-war legacy, and end with a
gruelling piece from 1926. 'The Chase' from the Out of Doors set is preceded
by Bartók at his most mysteriously evocative in 'The Night's Music' (how one
longs for orchestral colours); but now we must hurtle relentlessly on to the kill
and the end of de Toth's revelatory success
[listen -- CD5 track 27, 0:00-1:02].