9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Santa Fe Listener
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I approached this traversal of the three Bartok piano concertos without knowing of Bavourzet, a French pianist in his late forties who has won prizes and recorded Debussy, among other things, for Chandos. It would be easy to shrug him off: the world is fairly crammed with prize-winning pianists and also a fair number of outstanding recordings of the Bartok concertos, going back at least as far as Geza Anda and Ferenc Fricsay (on DG). In the wake of some great interpretations from the young Barenboim with Boulez, Stephen Kovacevich with Colin Davis, Pollini with the older Boulez, and scattered performances by Argerich, not to mention the flashy set from Ashkenazy and Solti, can Bavouzet find his own niche?
I think he does, because he backs away fairly strongly from accepted Bartok piano style, with its hammering insistence, accented dissonance, and motor rhythms. In their place we get softer attacks, expressive phrasing, and an emphasis on atmosphere. It would be glib to say that Bavouzet has mistaken Bartok for Debussy, but the suggestion isn't off base. One notices that he and Noseda are out to play change-up from the first few bars of Cto. no. 1, which is miles away from Pollini's driving force. Pianist and conductor take all the time they need for pauses, reflection, and moodiness. This allows the Andante of the first concerto, for example, to come off very successfully, full of color and half-light. Chandos provides very detailed sound from inside the orchestra, which enhances the coloristic effects.
Cto. no. 2 is played for virtuosic impact by almost everyone, and Bavouzet must step up to its fiendish technical challenges. He lacks the stunning command of Pollini (and also Lang Lang, who toured with the Bartok Second a few seasons ago), but in its place he and Noseda turn this work into more of an ensemble piece. Since Bartok was an orchestrator of genius, the tactic is very effective, and once more Chandos delivers colorful, rich sound for both piano and orchestra. the conducting is impressive musically, another major plus. It's refreshing to hear this concerto with no banging allowed.
Cto. no. 3 is the masterpiece of the trio, and I came to Bavouzet with fantastic concert readings in my mind from Piotr Anderszewski. This work interlaces many moods, often with sharp juxtapositions. Bavouzet can be a bit too straightforward where the best soloists are poetic, but his sense of pacing keeps the performance moving forward, while he also leaves space to phrase. The night music in the Adagio religioso (a surprising direction from Bartok) allows the most freedom -- we are almost in Falla's gardens of Spain -- and Bavouzet's clean, sober solemnity is quite appealing. He knows how to voice the short, separate chords that the composer gives to the piano in lieu of a lyrical melody. The BBC Phil. can't compete with the greatest orchestras, but their playing is attentive and colorful throughout. The crosstalk between the chirping birdsong in the woodwinds and piano is sharp and witty. Only in the finale do I miss the charisma of Pollini and Anderszewski.
In all, I was much more impressed than I expected to be, and if you like the idea of a somewhat novel approach to these works, delivered in excellent sound, this CD is well worth it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
During my undergrad years, I was a music student of sorts, so I did end up studying Bartok's Improvisations on folks songs (Opus 20, I think). I found them completely challenging and rewarding. A consistent, vital line leads right from the composer's solo piano music, to his piano concertos. The three concertos are nicely distributed, early to middle to late, Bartok.
My bench marks are a feisty lot: Sandor, Kovacevich, Geza Anda (with Fricsay = legendary), Bronfman, Ashkenazy, Schiff, ... and a very special tip of the listener hat to Peter Donohoe with Rattle in Birmingham. Now arrives French player Bavouzet, right after him making a huge splash with the complete solo piano music of Debussy on the label, Chandos, (and Ravel, too, on another label, MDG). I hear that a mixed French recital of piano with orchestra music is waiting in the new release wings. I think it will be super audio, too, and predictably, will by all accounts make a strong impression.
The pianist is accompanied by Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Symphony. My first exposure to Noseda put me off; it was a soggy Mahler tenth. I could only imagine with negatives how that sort of manner would go down in Bartok. Happily, these ready fears completely fail to materialize.
Noseda has the BBC band playing at tip top levels. They have a gusty, edgy, colorful way with Bartok's concerto parts - never mere accompaniments, by the way - that matches the solo player beautifully. Overall the emphasis is on vital, rhythmic energy. Bavouzet has a percussive way with the modern piano that nevertheless allows lots of passing color; at times his energy is almost too relentless. The through line that connects all three piano concertos is tempo-rhythm-figuration-polyphony?
This interpretive music core is sufficiently charged on all accounts that a listener may fear for the hapless third concerto, where deeper matters than percussion come so dearly into focus. But again, Noseda and Bavouzet and the band all back off enough, so that the edge grows deeper, quieter without softening. The night music chirrups and trills of the middle movement of the third concerto are done with more sparkle and less mystery. (Bartok did mark it, religioso, after all.)
This one is a keeper, especially if you have felt that prior players at all sold short Bartok's rhythms and percussive uses of the modern piano. I still revere Donohoe/Rattle by an unchanged high distance. But few will dare to argue that Bavouzet and partners have sold Bartok short by much, if at all.
The sound is really good, full-frequency, PCM red book stereo. One wonders if SACD would have brought out even more sense of color and tonal presence, to balance out the heavy rhythmic roots in these readings, concerto one through three?
Recommended. Just listen, forget about stars. Also. Do check out Peter Donohoe and Rattle in Birmingham, especially wonderful on a good pain of high end headphones.