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CD Review

Béla Bartók

Hungaroton 41002

Complete Edition

10 Volumes (eee below for detailed program listing):
  • Stage Works (2CDs: HCD31881/82)
  • Vocal Orchestral Works (1CD: HCD31883)
  • Symphonic Works Volume 1 (4CDs: HCD31884/87)
  • Symphonic Works Volume 2 (4CDs: HCD31888/91)
  • Chamber Works Volume 1 (3CDs: HCD31892/94)
  • Chamber Works Volume 2 (3CDs: HCD31895/97)
  • Piano Works Volume 1 (4CDs: HCD31898/01)
  • Piano Works Volume 2 (4CDs: HCD31902/05)
  • Vocal Works (3CDs: HCD31906/08)
  • Rarities, First Recordings (1CD: HCD31909)
Hungarian State Opera Chorus, et al.
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, Budapest Symphony Orchestra, et al./Antal Doráti, Janos Ferencsik, Andras Korodi, et al.
Hungaroton White Label HCD41002 ADD 29CDs
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If you thought you had all the Bartók worth having – the monumental string quartets, the spooky Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, the warhorse Concerto for Orchestra, perhaps even the three thrilling piano concertos – consider this 29-disc set. It is the only available edition of his complete works. Hungaroton issued most of these pieces in a boxed LP set almost thirty years ago. Expect some tape hiss. However some pieces, like the 1903 Violin Sonata, were recorded as late as 1993. Treasures abound. Sample the songs Bartók wrote in 1915, based on the poems of his young student and lover, Klára Gombossy. Read the dry, awkwardly translated, and informative program notes. (There are enough of these to fill a small book.) Learn that the baroque practice of "parody," recycling parts of older pieces for new pieces, did not die out with Bach. Bartók used the second movement in his Violin Concerto #1 as the first of Two Portraits. Not only did he orchestrate several chamber works, like his two violin and piano rhapsodies, he rescored. This set includes his Rhapsody #1 scored for cello and it is most tasty.

This collection features all Hungarian performers, but that is not its only unique aspect. It is also quite democratic. Unlike DGG's Complete Webern, which spotlighted Pierre Boulez, the Bartók Complete Edition includes about four dozen singers, musicians, orchestras, and choirs, giving no one the spotlight. You may not love them all, but they are the best Hungary has to offer. So if you don't care for Eszter Kovács singing Végit mentem a tárkányi, wait a few minutes. You will soon hear Terézia Csajbók singing Kis Kece lányom.

Where to begin? Space limitations don't permit the discussion of all the pieces in this set, but I will mention some. The Vocal Works sub-volume includes three discs of nothing but folk songs. Many date from Bartók early years traipsing the Hungarian countryside, but some were composed as late as 1935, like From Olden Times. These 27 a cappella songs sung by a 2- and 3-part male choir are both melancholic and stirring. Erzébet Török sings the lovely There are waters at Debrecen. Four Songs from Mikrokosmos reveals more of Bartók the parodist, recycling melodies from his famed children's book of piano songs. Erika Sziklay's voice may not be spectacular but it is suited for these deceptively simple songs. The Vocal Orchestral Works sub-volume has an unsettling version of the Cantata profana fable, as well as several orchestrations of the works on Vocal Works.

There are two sub-volumes of chamber music. Play the modernist Violin Sonatas #1 and 2 and they will creep up on you, nuzzling for your attention like a cat. Thank Gidon Kremer and Iury Smirnov for their splendid timing and prickly performance. You may never have heard of Dénes Kovács, but his rendition of the Sonata for Solo Violin may render you speechless. Unlike those performers who treat it like an extended cadenza, he treats it like a symphony for one instrument.

On Orchestral Works II, Dénes Kovács returns to play an antic Violin Concerto #2, without the showmanship of Yehudi Menuhin, but with deep enough expression. Geza Nemeth plays the Viola Concerto competently, but not as luminously as Kim Kashkashian (ECM 465420-2). Only on a set like this can you listen to the Sonata for Two Pianos, Percussion, and Orchestra and decide whether it was necessary to orchestrate it into Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion, and Orchestra. (It was, but just barely.) As a bonus disc, the collection contains Rarities, First Recorded (mostly songs and piano works). Buy this set so that, when asked how many Bartók pieces you own, you can reply "everything."

Copyright © 2001, Peter Bates.

Contents:

Bluebard's Castle (A kékszakállú herceg vára), Op. 11, Sz. 48, BB 62
Katalin Kasza (soprano), György Melis (baritone), Hungarian Radio & Television Chorus, Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/János Ferencsik

The Wooden Prince (A fából faragott királyfi), Op. 13, Sz. 60, BB 74
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/András Kórodi

The Miraculous Mandarin (A csodálatos mandarin), Op. 19, Sz. 73, BB 82
Hungarian State Opera Chorus, Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/János Sándor

Cantata Profana "The Nine Enchanted Stags" (A kilenc csodaszarvas] Sz. 94, BB 100
József Réti (tenor), András Faragó (baritone), Budapest Chorus, Budapest Symphony Orchestra/János Ferencsik

Three village scenes "Falun" (Tri dedinské scény) Sz. 79, BB 87b
Laura Faragó, Anna Ádám (sopranos), Gyõr Girls' Choir, Budapest Chamber Ensemble/Antal Doráti

Seven Choruses with Orchestral Accompaniment Sz. 103, BB 111
Chamber Chorus of the 'Liszt Ferenc' Academy of Music, Budapest, Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Antal Doráti

Five Hungarian folksongs (Magyar népdalok) Sz. 101, BB 108
Júlia Hamari (mezzo-soprano), Hungarian State Orchestra/András Kórodi

Five songs (Öt dal) Op. 15, Sz. 61, BB 74
Júlia Hamari (mezzo-soprano), Hungarian State Orchestra/János Kovács

Symphonic Poem "Kossuth" Sz. 75a, BB 31
Suite "The Miraculous Mandarin" Op. 19, Sz. 73, BB 82
Scherzo in C Major from Symphony in E Flat Major DD 68, BB 25
Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta Sz. 106, BB 144
Budapest Symphony Orchestra/György Lehel

Two portraits (Két arckép) Op. 5, Sz. 37, BB 48b
Mihály Szûcs (violin), Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/Miklós Erdélyi

Two Pictures (Két kép) Op. 10, Sz. 46, BB 59
Four Pieces Op. 12, Sz. 51, BB 64
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/Miklós Erdélyi

Suite #1 Op. 3, Sz. 31, BB 39 (1905)
Hungarian State Orchestra/János Ferencsik

Suite "The Wooden Prince" Op. 13, Sz. 60, BB 74
Romanian Dance (Román tánc) Sz. 47a, BB 61
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/András Kórodi

Suite #2 Op. 4, Sz. 34, BB 40 (1943)
Romanian Folk Dances (Román népi táncok) Sz. 68, BB 76
Transylvanian Dances (Erdélyi táncok) Sz. 96, BB 102b
Hungarian Sketches (Magyar képek) Sz. 97, BB
Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Miklós Erdélyi

Hungarian Peasant Songs (Magyar parasztdalok) Sz. 100, BB 107
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/János Sándor

Concerto for Orchestra Sz. 116, BB 123
Divertimento Sz. 113, BB 118
Hungarian State Orchestra/Antal Doráti

Dance Suite (Táncszvit) Sz. 77, BB 86
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/János Sándor

Concerto for 2 Pianos, Percussion & Orchestra Sz. 115, BB 121
Erzsébet Tusa, Ditta Bartók-Pásztory (pianos), Ferenc Petz, József Marton (percussion), Budapest Symphony Orchestra/János Sándor

Piano Concerto #1 Sz. 83, BB 91
Piano Concerto #2 Sz. 95, BB 101
Zoltán Kocsis (piano), Budapest Symphony Orchestra/György Lehel

Piano Concerto #3 Sz. 119, BB 127
Dezsõ Ránki (piano), Hungarian State Orchestra/János Ferencsik

Rhapsody Op. 1, Sz. 27, BB 36b
Erzsébet Tusa (piano), Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Gyula Németh

Scherzo "Burlesque" Op. 2, Sz. 28, BB 35
Erzsébet Tusa (piano), Budapest Symphony Orchestra/György Lehel

Rhapsody "Folk Dances" #1 Sz. 87, BB 94
Rhapsody "Folk Dances" #2 Sz. 90, BB 96
Dénes Kovács (violin), Budapest Symphony Orchestra/János Ferencsik

Violin Concerto #1 Op. posth., Sz. 36, BB 48a
Dénes Kovács (violin), Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/András Kórodi

Violin Concerto #2 Sz. 112, BB 117
Dénes Kovács (violin), Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Ervin Lukács

Viola Concerto Sz. 120, BB 128
Géza Németh (viola), Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/András Kórodi

Andante in A Major "Albumblatt to Adila Arányi" DD 70, BB 26
György Pauk (violin), Péter Frankl (viola)

Rhapsody "Folk Dances" #1 Sz. 86, BB 94
Rhapsody "Folk Dances" #2 Sz. 89, BB 96
Zoltán Székely (violin), Isobel Moore (piano)

Rhapsody "Folk Dances" #1 Sz. 88, BB 94
László Mezõ (cello), Erzsébet Tusa (piano)

Hungarian Folksongs (Magyar népdalok) Sz. 42, BB 109
Mihály Szûcs (violin), Erzsébet Tusa (piano)

Violin Sonata in E minor DD 72, BB 28
Vilmos Szabadi (violin), Márta Gulyás (piano)

Violin Sonata #1 Op. 21, Sz. 75, BB 84
Sonata #2 Sz. 76, BB 85
Gidon Kremer (violin), Jury Smirnov (piano)

Violin Sonata Sz. 117, BB 124
Dénes Kovács (violin)

44 Duos Sz. 98, BB 104
Wanda Wilkomirska, Mihály Szûcs (violins)

Sonata for 2 Pianos & 2 Percussion Sz. 110, BB 115
Dezsõ Ránki, Zoltán Kocsis (pianos), Ferenc Petz, József Marton (percussion)

Piano Quintet DD 77, BB 33
Csilla Szabó (piano), Tátrai Quartet

String Quartet #l Op. 7, Sz. 40, BB 52
String Quartet #2 Op. 17, Sz. 67, BB 75
String Quartet #3 Sz. 85, BB 93
String Quartet #4 Sz. 91, BB 95
String Quartet #5 Sz. 102, BB 110
String Quartet #6 Sz. 114, BB 119
Tátrai Quartet

Contrasts Sz. 111, BB 116
Miklós Szenthelyi (violin), Kálmán Berkes (clarinet), Zoltán Kocsis (piano)

Four Pieces DD 71, BB 27
Rhapsody Op. 1, Sz. 26, BB 36a
Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs (Tizenöt magyar parasztdal) Sz. 71, BB 79
3 Studies Op. 18, Sz. 72, BB 81
Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs Op. 20, Sz. 74, BB 83
Dance Suite (Táncszvit) Sz. 77, BB 86
Three Rondos on Slovak Folktunes (Három rondo népi dallamokkal) Sz. 84, BB 92
Gábor Gabos (piano)

Three Hungarian Folksongs from the Csík District (Három Csík megyei népdal) Sz. 35a, BB 45/b
14 Bagatelles Op. 6, Sz. 38, BB 50
For Children (Gyermekeknek) Sz. 42, BB 53, [Books 1 & 2] Vol.1-4
Mikrokosmos, Vols. 5 & 6 Sz. 107, BB 105
Kornél Zempléni (piano)

Two Elegies (Két elégia) Op. 8b, Sz. 41, BB 49
Two Romanian Dances (Két román tánc) Op. 8a, Sz. 43, BB 56
7 Sketches (Vázlatok) Op. 9b, Sz. 44, BB 54
Four Dirges (Négy siratóének) Op. 9a, Sz. 45, BB 58
Mikrokosmos, Vols. 1-4 Sz. 107, BB 105
Loránt Szûcs (piano)

Three Burlesques (Három burleszk) Op. 8c, Sz. 47, BB 55
Allegro barbaro Sz. 49, BB 63
The First Term at the Piano (Kezdõk zongoramuzsikája) Sz. 52-53, BB 67
Sonatina, Sz. 55, BB 69
Romanian Folkdance
Dezsõ Ránki (piano)

Sonata Sz. 80, BB 88
Out of Doors (Szabadban) Sz. 81, BB 89
Nine Little Pieces Sz. 82, BB 90
Petite Suite Sz. 105, BB 113
Erzsébet Tusa (piano)

Petits Morceaux Sz. 67/1, BB 38
Scherzo oder Fantasie Op. 18, DD 50, BB 11
Marche funebre Sz. 75b, BB 31
István Kassai (piano)

Seven Pieces from Mikrokosmos Sz. 108, BB 120
Ditta Bartók-Pásztory, Erzsébet Tusa (pianos)

Suite Op. 4b, Sz. 115a, BB 122
Ditta Bartók-Pásztory, Mária Comensoli (pianos)

Hungarian Folksongs #1-10 (Magyar népdalok) Sz. 33, BB 42
Eight Hungarian Folksongs (Nyolc magyar népdal) Sz. 64, BB 47
Five Songs "Öt dal" Op. 15, Sz. 61, BB 71
Five Songs "Öt dal" on poems by Endre Ady Op. 16, Sz. 63, BB 72
Eszter Kovács (soprano), Ádám Fellegi (piano)

Hungarian Folksongs #11-20 (Magyar népdalok) Sz. 33a, BB 43
Terézia Csajbók (soprano), Loránt Szûcs (piano)

Twenty Hungarian Folksongs (Húsz magyar népdal) Sz. 92, BB 98
Four Songs from Mikrokosmos Sz. 107, BB 105
Village Scenes "Falun" (Dedinské scény) Sz. 78, BB 87a
Erika Sziklay (soprano), István Lantos (piano)

Hungarian Folksong (Debrecennek van egy vize) Sz. 109, BB deest
Erzsébet Török (soprano), István Hajdú (piano)

Four Slovak Folksongs (Négy tót népdal - Štyri slovenské piesne) Sz. 70, BB 78
Slovak Philharmonic Chorus, Ladislav Holášek (piano)

Hungarian Folksongs (Magyar népdalok) Sz. 93, BB 99
Slovak Philharmonic Chorus/Miklós Szabó

Slovak Folksongs (Tót népdalok - Slovácké ludové piesne) Sz. 69, BB 77
Four Old Hungarian folksongs (Négy régi magyar népdal) Sz. 50, BB 60
Székely Songs (Székely dalok) Sz. 99, BB 106
From Olden Times (Elmúlt idõkbõl)
Hungarian Army Male Chorus/Zoltán Vásárhelyi

27 Two- & Three-part Choruses Sz. 103, BB 111
Gyõr Girls' Choir/Miklós Szabó

From Gyergyó (Gyergyóból) Sz. 35, BB 45a
Gábor Kállay (recorder), Emese Virágh (piano)

Two Hungarian Folksongs Sz. 33b, BB 44
Székely Folksong "Piros alma…" Sz. 30, BB 34
Four Slovakian Folksongs Sz. 35b, BB 46
Andrea Meláth (mezzo-soprano), Emese Virágh (piano)

Evening (Est) Sz. 74, BB 30
Honvéd Ensemble Male Choir/András Tóth

Trumpet