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Great Perf: Perahia Bartok

Murray Perahia , Bartok Bela Audio CD

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1. Sonata (1926); I. Allegro moderato
2. Sonata (1926); II. Sostenuto e pesante
3. Sonata (1926); III. Allegro molto
4. Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20; I. Molto moderato
5. Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20; II. Molto capriccioso
6. Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20; III. Lento, rubato
7. Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20; IV. Allegretto scherzando
8. Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20; V. Allegro molto
9. Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20; VI. Allegro moderato, molto capriccioso
10. Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20; VII. Sostenuto, rubato
11. Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20; VIII. Allegro
12. Suite, Op. 14; I. Allegro
13. Suite, Op. 14; II. Scherzo
14. Suite, Op. 14; III. Allegro molto
15. Suite, Op. 14; IV. Sostenuto
16. Out of Doors, Sz. 81; I. With Drums and Pipes. Pesante
17. Out of Doors, Sz. 81; II. Barcarolla. Andante
18. Out of Doors, Sz. 81; III. Musettes. Moderato
19. Out of Doors, Sz. 81; IV. Musiques Nocturnes. Lento
20. Out of Doors, Sz. 81; V. The Chase. Presto
See all 23 tracks on this disc

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perahia nails Bartok July 17 2011
By David Hicks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I turned on the radio one night and Bartok was playing, piano music. It took me a few seconds to recognize the piece: the Improvisations, Op. 20. The performance was scintillating: I listened on the edge of my seat. When the performance ended the DJ identified the pianist as Murray Perahia.

Next day I bought the disc from Amazon. I have a previously issued CD with the same performance of the Sonata for 2 Pianos and Percussion, with Solti on the other piano, so I wasn't surprised to hear Perahia play Bartok, nor to hear him play Bartok with fire.

But the quality of the playing on this CD is inspired. I own many recordings of Bartok piano music: performed by Bartok himself, Sandor, Kocsis, Jando, to name a few. The closest comparison I can make is that Perahia plays (almost) as well as Leonid Hambro did on his stunning and possessed performance of "Out of Doors", on the original Bartok Records recording of that work. (If you see that LP on Ebay, buy it!) And Perahia maintains this level of excellence on every piece on the disc.

I don't agree with a previous reviewer that the Sonata is the best piece on this disc. For originality, "Out of Doors" and "Improvisations" are tops. The Suite comes close on their heels. But it is important to note that Perahia has chosen his material with unerring sensitivity: these are the pieces one would want to hear him play. (If he's taking requests, Murray, play the Second Piano Concerto!)

If you are a fan of Bela Bartok, buy this disc. If you are not but want to know why this was a great and fearless composer, buy this disc. If you like your music familiar, or pleasant, or nostalgic... beware!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perahia is unexpectedly exciting in Bartok June 30 2006
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Having made his career on the gentler side of the sound spectrum with Bach, Mozart, Chopin, and Schubert, Murray Perahia applies himself forcefully to some of Bartok's greatest piano music. The composer single-handedly reinvented piano sonority, famously using the piano as a percussion instrument, sometimes brutally, and employing it for stark melodic lines underpinned by hammering ostinato rhythms.

For someone like me who doesn't regularly listen to Bartok's piano works, there's a range of tough modernist expression here, from the relatively easy listening of the Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs to the fierceness of the Out of Doors set and the Suite. I find myself attracted most to the Sonata (1926), which strikes a balance between the assaultive and emoitonal accessibility. Perahia doesn't hold back in any of the fiercer passages, so I wouldn't recommend trying to sit through the whole CD at a stretch, but the piano sound is natural and clean.

These solo recordings pair disparate performances on one CD with the great Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. Perahia's partner is Georg Solti, doing a respectable if somewhat tame job together. The real stars are the percussionists, particularly the now-famous Evelyn Glennie. Sony has given them good sonics with a carefully set up sondstage that follows Bartok's precise demands for how the players are to be seated. The sonata is quite tricky to record with so many percussive sounds, and the thrill of a live performance is extremely hard if not impossible to duplicate. Even so, this is one of the best-sounding recordings, and the new DSD remastering helps remove some of its former sting.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Perahia, bad piano April 20 2011
By Arne Sande - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I have always admired Perahia, and on this CD only one thing is really annoying: The piano sound. Which is the usual thin CBS sound of the time, except here it sounds as if played on a really cheap audio cassette player from the sixties or seventies; the effect is called flutter, and seldom heard on CD. The original tapes may have deteriorated, perhaps? Try out track 6 before buying.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Murray Perahia performances of Bela Bartok piano music Dec 10 2012
By jt52 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This re-issue pairs the great American pianist Murray Perahia's performances of four Bela Bartok solo piano pieces, about 10 minutes each in length, with a performance of the 1937 Sonata for two pianos and percussion, done with conductor Georg Solti and two percussionists, including the deaf Evelyn Glennie. I find the disc to be mostly well performed throughout but marred by poor recorded sound.

The Perahia performances of the four solo pieces are very well-done. A talented pianist, Bartok wrote no solo piano pieces outside of his Mikrokosmos cycle after 1927 and I think it's fair to say he turned away from this medium as he grew older. The four pieces featured here form a nice highlight of his solo work. I particularly liked the Suite (1914) and the Improvisations on Hungarian peasant songs (1920), a lesser-known work, is attractive and a must-listen for fans of Bartok, representing a sort of ad libbed condensing of folk music into Schumann-like miniatures. Perahia presents a particularly effective interpretation of the "Out of Doors" suite (1926) and the Sonata (1926) which, unlike one of the other reviewers here, I found the least interesting of the four works.

Now, on to the Sonata for two pianos. I have been reading for decades that this is one of the major twentieth-century compositions and a pinnacle of Bartok's art. In those decades, I have listened to the Sonata repeatedly and have failed to profit. I've reached an age and level of confidence so I will say now, to those advocacies of the Sonata: "No, it isn't all that." The Sonata has longeurs - the Lento never fails to utterly bore me and the long opening movement starts well but drifts off into an amorphuous note spinning that always taxes my patience. Along with the Sonata's opening, I also like the finale's melody introduced in the percussion section. But large portions of this Sonata typically leaves me bored and dispirited. Whatever technical accomplishments Bartok weaved into this Sonata - and I'm sure there are many - at the very least a major 20th-century work needs to be always interesting.

I don't think the performance led by Perahia and Solti is a particularly effective one. I compared it to an older performance by Gilbert Kalish and Lee Luvisi, who present a more structurally cohesive, engaged performance. In contrast, Perahia and Solti lack life in this recording, with stretches tending towards monotony.

The piano sound on this CD is dull and doesn't sound like a real instrument. Perahia plays excellently in the solo works but the sound and my view of the Two-Piano Sonata performance forces me to downgrade this release to 4 stars.

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