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Piano Concertos - Nos. 1 2 &


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Amazon.com: 7 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Bartók's Piano Concertos for our time Nov. 6 2010
By Bing-Alguin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Béla Bartók left no wide margins for his interpreters, and therefore many interpretations of the three concertante-like piano concertos that make pianist, conductor and orchestra on a more or less equal footing have a strikingly similar design. So when Noseda-Bavouzet with BBC Philharmonic bring out a new recording of these Bartók's ravishing concertos, your curiosity will arise: What will their contribution be to the multitude of excellent interpretations existing?
For example, compared to the legendary Fricsay-Anda recording with its sensitively varied and nuanced playing and its incomparable Hungarian Bartók character, a both explosive and meditative revelation out of the past. Or Fischer-Schiff, as incomparable and emotive in its perfect balance between soloist and orchestra (Budapest Festival Orchestra), between the Classicist and Romantic-Modernist strains in the scores, probably the most ideal interpretation of them all. Or Boulez with three different orchestras and pianists, cleverly chosen according the character of the concertos: an authoritative Zimerman, an Andsnes full of fresh dignity, and a most Romantic and introvert Grimaud, with Boulez himself reigning supremely over the shifting stage and keeping all of it together from a more Modernist than Hungarian commonage full of universal space and stringency.
In comparison Noseda-Bavouzet is the fastest recording, with brisk tempi and vehement accomplishment: 73'28 for all the three concertos, whereas Fricsay-Anda take on 76'55, the longest one, and Fischer-Schiff and Boulez-Zimerman/Andsnes/Grimaud both land up in 76'26 and 76'25 respectively, quite an incredible levelness. Fast tempi suit Bavouzet's Classicist style, his lively, energetic drive and his stunningly distinct virtuosity, quite perfectly. Both the first and the second concerto are brilliantly rendered, whereas the third one with its famous Adagio religioso is a weak point of the recording, lacking the form of contemplative "still center" necessary to reflect the suggestion of mysticism of the piece (Grimaud is all gold here, but also Anda and Schiff are glorious).
To the credits of the Noseda-Bavouzet disc the innovative placing of the orchestra must be considered. The percussions are positioned behind piano and in front of woodwinds, whereas the strings are fewer than normally and sited left and right in a very wide circle. All of it according to Bartók's own wishes. And just imagine! This results in a rich and mellow orchestral sound and very precisely audible noises from the percussion instruments, so important in orchestral music by Bartók. A splendid contribution!
All these recordings mentioned above are indispensable, but choosing the new Noseda-Bavouzet with its vitality, energy and close observation, a true recording of our time, is doubtless a really good bargain, never to be regretted.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Bavouzet gives another outstanding performance Oct. 14 2010
By Matthew Wilcox - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Solid reviews are already being written about this disc of Bartók's three piano concertos. BBC Music Magazine made it their Orchestral choice for October 2010, and Gramophone will list it as Editor's Choice for November 2010. Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet is not new to great reviews of his recordings. The set of complete piano works of Debussy (5 separate CDs) all received top marks, both for performance and sound quality. This is Bavouzet's first concerto recording for Chandos, and is worthy of similar praise.

I usually like piano music best when it's performed by the composer's countrymen. Rogé for Satie, Andsnes for Grieg, and so on. I would have initially been inclined to look for a recording featuring Kocsis, or Jandó. In this case, I am perfectly willing to make an exception. Bavouzet brings a welcome impressionism to Bartók's piano concertos. The slower movements, such as the Adagio religioso in the third concerto, take on a dreamlike quality. The percussive parts of the concertos do not drown out the piano; rather, Chandos has blended the parts evenly, allowing the listener to better enjoy the interplay between soloist and orchestra.

The sound quality of the recording is remarkable, and would have certainly been worthy of an SACD release. The booklet notes give informative insight into the creation of these 20th century masterpieces. Even the cover art is exciting, matching the bombastic and beautiful interpretations of these works. Do not hesitate to buy this recording!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
An arresting take on the Bartok concertos --- softer, more impressionistic, merging piano and orchestra Sept. 28 2010
By 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
A New Recording of the Bartok Piano Concertos Feb. 12 2011
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
After hearing a striking live performance of Bartok's solo piano suite "In the Country", I needed to hear more of the composer's piano music. I had only slight familiarity with Bartok's piano concertos and took the opportunity to try to get to know them. Bartok's three piano concertos (1926, 1931, 1945)are masterworks of Twentieth Century piano literature and have been widely recorded. This recent recording by pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Gianandrea Noseda has received widespread acclaim. Paul Griffiths' detailed liner notes offer a useful guide to the music. I also learned a good deal from comments of my Amazon friends on other performances of the concertos.

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet is a French pianist renowned for the sparkling technique and sense of rhythm he has brought to CDs of Debussy and Haydn, among others. His performance of Bartok shows a lyricism especially in the middle movements of each work together with the percussiveness and almost barbaric drive for which the first two of the concertos are known. I had occasion to hear conductor Gianandrea Noseda live a few evenings ago in an orchestral concert of Smetena, Beethoven's third piano concerto, and Tchaikovsy. Noseda is a commanding presence on the podium given to large, sweeping gestures and highly shaped romantic interpretations. Hearing Noseda conduct live helped give me a sense of this recording. Bartok's concertos display a complex orchestration and much interplay among the instruments and with the piano.

The three concertos move from a difficult, dissonant and sharp style in the direction of simplicity, clearer tonality, and lyricism. The first concerto is the most jaggedly modernistic of the three. Bartok composed the solo suite "In the Country" (1925) which so impressed me as a preparation for this concerto. The first concerto is a highly percussive work, and this recording emphasizes that character. It follows Bartok's direction in placing the percussion section immediately behind the soloist and in reducing the size of the strings. The concerto's outer movements feature short, dissonant themes with shifting rhythms. The piano is frequently juxtaposed against the percussion section of the orchestra and shares its abrasive, driving character. The second movement is a contrast to the outer two movements in a manner that the following two concertos amplify and develop. In this work the piano plays at first accompanied only by percussion with the wind section joining as the movement progresses. There are no strings. This is a raw, visceral concerto on any interpretation. I found Bavouzet's performance captured these qualities but with a more lyrical reading of the middle movement.

The second concerto is a rather more accessible and optimistic version of the first. It is the longest of the three concertos. The second retains the emphasis on percussion and winds and dissonance, but the themes tend to be somewhat lengthier and are tilted toward a major key tonality. The piano part is fiendishly difficult with long clangorous passages in octaves. The outer two movements are closely related. In the opening movement in particular there is a great deal of interplay between the piano and a trumpet fanfare. The strings are absent in the opening movement, as they were in the slow movement of the first concerto. But they return to prominence in the lengthy second movement which opens with a slow dialogue between the hushed strings and the soloists. The slow movement is briefly interrupted by a scherzo-like light passage for piano and winds before the slow theme returns. Bavouzet gives this work a more lyrical reading than the initial concerto, but I was more taken with the brilliant character of his pianism and the interplay with the various orchestral instruments.

The third concerto is the most accessible of the three with long lyrical themes and a clear sense of tonality. Listeners will differ in the preference for the dissonant style of the first two works or the clarity of the third. I like best the wildness of the first concerto. Still, the third is a lovely concerto with long lyrical solo lines and two clearly developed contrasting themes in the opening movement. The second movement, marked "Adagio religioso" has similarities to late Beethoven slow movements. It is deeply hymnlike and reflective in character and interrupted only briefly by a light, sparkling nocturnal section consisting of piano and winds. The work concludes in a triumphal, energetic movement. The last few bars were orchestrated by the composer's assistant, Tibor Serly.

Bavouzet and Noseda offer idiomatic and emotional performances of these three concertos which capture well the similarities and differences in their musical voices. I was pleased to get to know the Bartok concertos through this CD. It is an excellent choice for listeners coming to thees works.

Robin Friedman
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Bavouzet, Noseda, BBC-SO: Bartok P Ctos: Edgy, Rhythmic Readings, filled out with passing tonal colors ... Oct. 31 2010
By drdanfee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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.

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