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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' from Transylvania [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].

Copyright © 1 December 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


Bartók Solo Piano Works, Volumes I-V

JDT 3136 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE (5 CDs) 50'19"/60'56"/69'15"/74'33"/66'00" - TT 321'03" 2004 Eroica Classical Recordings

June de Toth, piano

Béla Bartók (1881-1945): Seven Sketches Sz 44; Sonata 1926 Sz 80; 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs and Dances Sz 71; Four Dirges Sz 45; Allegro Barbaro Sz 49; Suite Sz 2; For Children - 42 Hungarian Folk Songs Sz 42; Three Burlesques Sz 47; Six Romanian Folk Dances Sz 56; Ten Easy Piano Pieces Sz 39; Fourteen Bagatelles Sz 38; Three Rondos on Folk Tunes Sz 84; Sonatina Sz 55; Romanian Dance No 1 Sz 43; For Children - 43 Slovakian Folk Songs Sz 42; Petite Suite Sz 105; Romanian Christmas Carols Sz 57; Two Elegies Sz 41; Three Hungarian Folk Songs Sz 35; Nine Little Piano Pieces Sz 82; Improvisations Sz 74; Out of Doors Sz 81



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