Bartok: Piano concertos/Bavouzet

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 8

It’s good to hear Bavouzet venturing outside the French repertoire; his playing here is marvelous. Certainly he has the chops for the percussive writing in the outer movements of the first two concertos, but he’s just as comfortable, and tremendously affecting, in the eerie slow movement of No. 2, or the long-breathed lyricism of No. 3’s first movement. The former is perhaps the highlight of this disc: a dynamically sensitive reading of one of Bartók’s most evocative creations. If Bavouzet hasn’t quite the imaginative use of accent that we hear from Kocsis, he’s awfully close, and there’s no question of his comfort with the idiom.

Gianandrea Noseda, seldom the most interesting of conductors, proves a very capable accompanist, but the engineering is a little bit odd. In the CD booklet the producer makes a special point of the positioning of the percussion in the First concerto behind the piano, as Bartók requests, but the result has high, crisp sounds (snare drum with snares, or suspended cymbals with a hard stick) sounding right next to the microphones, with softer timbres farther off. Also, in the piano-plus-winds first movement of the Second concerto the brass (trumpets especially) takes on a tinny quality that I doubt was present in person given other productions featuring this orchestra.

These slight caveats aside, this disc is certainly recommendable even if Kocsis/Fischer (Philips) remains a first choice. If you’ve become a fan of Bavouzet from his outstanding Debussy recordings, then go ahead and indulge. You won’t be disappointed. [11/19/2010]

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Kocsis (Philips)

BÉLA BARTÓK - Piano Concertos Nos. 1-3

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