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ClassicsOnline Home » BARTOK, B.: Sonata for 2 pianos and percussion / For Children (excerpts) (Bartok, Pasztory-Bartok) (1940, 1945)
From the past, music for here and now
The historical significance of this recording is obvious. Hearing a composer perform their own work always offers some insight into the work itself, and what (future) performers and listeners should make of it.
That said, the insights can be, if we're being honest, fairly insubstantial. The piano rolls by Mahler and Debussy, for example, are fascinating documents, but scarcely listenable interpretations of the pieces in question. From them, in truth, we learn more about the music than from it directly. The same could even be said of Prokofiev's performance of his popular 3rd concerto, where very muddy orchestral sound makes it more like hearing to a rumour than to a story. Even Igor Stravinsky's own recordings, created deliberately as templates for other performers, don't necessarily succeed. (Stravinsky once compared his own version of le Sacre to two others, passage by passage--and did not always give himself top marks!)
This beautifully restored recording is a happy exception. Despite the archaic sound quality and the less than note-perfect performance, this is one of the most convincing and powerful versions of this wonderful music. The historical interest is as formidable as it could be, but the compelling musical interest, if I can put it that way, is incomparably greater. The sound is good enough to hear fascinating nuances of dynamic and phrasing, and the piece sounds well enough rehearsed that everyone is well and truly on the same page artistically.
What there really is to be learned here is what is possible in musical expression. Bartók is for me one of the very greatest musicians, creator of several dozen of the deepest and most expressive pieces in classical music. This is indisputably one of them, and anyone who devotes themselves to this wonderful, loving restoration will be nobly rewarded.more....
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