This is quite simply one of the most important and consistently superbly executed recording projects of all time. Bartók's piano music isn't exactly overrepresented on disc, being as it is without doubt one of the most important piano oeuvres ever composed, and in the hand of Zoltán Kocsis, doubtlessly one of the greatest pianists alive today, one should expect some superb discs where the works at long last receive the treatment they deserve. In fact, the actual result surpasses any possible expectations.
This is the fourth recording by Patricia Kopatchinskaja on naïve; the second in the concerto repertoire. The collaboration with conductor/composer Peter Eötvos and the programme is an intense series of connections. Between Bartok, Ligeti, Eotvos and Kopatchinskaja, there are many links: Hungary, the land of the 3 composers featured; Peter Eötvos was the conductor of the first performance of the second version of Ligeti violin concerto, in 1992, with Ensemble Modern; Patricia Kopatchinakaja and Peter Eötvös have been working together for 4 years, performing several concertos, including those recorded here.
At 1st sight, they appear to have nothing in common – but disregarding the stylistic elements & a difference of 2 centuries, you soon recognize that both are in a sense, musical architects, who as piano virtuosos were equally interested in miniature forms & inspired by folk music. On the 1 hand you have Scarlatti, who, after moving to Spain in 1729 composed almost exclusively for harpsichord & integrated elements of Spanish folklore into his compositions in an experimental way; on the other hand Bartk, who boosted the recognition of the rich native Hungarian peasant songs to an independent folk art, & was also influenced by Arabic folk music.
Through his far-reaching endeavors as composer, performer, educator, and ethnomusicolgist, Béla Bartók emerged as one of the most forceful and influential musical personalities of the twentieth century. Born in Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary (now Romania), on March 25, 1881, Bartók began his musical training with piano studies at the age of five, foreshadowing his lifelong affinity for the instrument. Following his graduation from the Royal Academy of Music in 1901 and the composition of his first mature works – most notably, the symphonic poem Kossuth (1903) – Bartók embarked on one of the classic field studies in the history of ethnomusicology. With fellow countryman and composer Zoltán Kodály, he traveled throughout Hungary ……..From Allmusic
First there was rhythm - pulsing, driving, primal rhythm. And a new word in musical terminology: Barbaro. As with sticks on skins, so with hammers on strings. The piano as one of the percussion family, the piano among the percussion family. The first and second concertos were written to be performed that way. But the rhythm had shape and direction, myriad accents, myriad subtleties. An informed primitivism. A Baroque primitivism. Then came the folkloric inflections chipped from the music of time: the crude and misshapen suddenly finding a singing voice. Like the simple melody - perhaps a childhood recollection - that emerges from the dogged rhythm of the First Concerto's second movement. András Schiff plays it like a defining moment - the piano reinvented as a singing instrument. His "parlando" (conversational) style is very much in Bartók's own image. But it's the balance here between the honed and unhoned, the brawn and beauty, the elegance and wit of this astonishing music that make these readings special.
There are several reasons to own this Vox Box 2CD set. For the first, it includes five great violin concertos in some of the very best performances in their discography. For the second, Ivry Gitlis (born 1922) is a great living violinist and these recordings made in early 1950s show his art in the best way, when Ivry's violin sounded powerful and brilliant.
It usually takes about ten seconds to identify Ivry Gitlis' playing. No offense intended, but he is perhaps one of the most "anti-Classical" violinists, or the one whom you would least like to hear playing the Bach solo partitas. His free-wheeling approach to vibrato and intonation are not what wins praise in conservatories and awards at competitions these days. Often, it is said that Gitlis sounds like a gypsy violinist. There's nothing wrong with that, though, at least in certain repertoire. Gitlis takes us back to a time when classical music and musicianship were a little more wild and unpredictable than they are today.
For many listeners, Henryk Szeryng would be the No. 1 choice for a recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto. His interpretation is technically flawless, emotionally involved, and deeply probing; it makes Jascha Heifetz, for example, sound slightly offhand. In this French-made video from 1962, the Paris Conservatoire is not the best possible orchestra, but it is more than adequate and Paul Paray is an excellent conductor.