Bartók: Mikrokosmos (Complete) / Jenö Jandó

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Bartók: Mikrokosmos. Jénö Jandó, piano. Ibolya Tóth, producer; János Bohus, engineer. Naxos 8.557821-22 [2 CDs].

For years, Jénö Jandó has been the house pianist at Naxos. He’s done cycles of Mozart, Beethoven, and Liszt along with a variety of other fare, much of it excellent, all of it respectable. His portfolio already includes a handful of discs devoted to the music of his countryman Béla Bartók; here he turns to what is certainly the most familiar of Bartók’s solo piano works, the six books of progressive piano pieces known as Mikrokosmos. Anyone who has studied piano during the past 60 years has encountered this compendium, and learned to either love it or hate it. The 153 pieces, a 20th-century Gradus ad Parnassum, begin with simple unison exercises and ascend through various technical difficulties – involving intervals, chords, ostinatos, syncopations, contrary motion, modal scales, and assorted rhythmic and metric complications – to fully realized virtuosity in the closing pieces of Book VI. Yet already by the concluding piece of Book I, “Free Canon,” you know this music could only be by Bartók and nobody else. And by the first piece in Book V, “Chords Together and in Opposition,” you know you’ve arrived at big-league Bartók – the way Jandó plays it here sends a thrill of admiration through the wrists of this writer, who would have loved to be able to dispatch it so dashingly.

Throughout this transit of Mikrokosmos, Jandó presents each exercise as a musical gesture, without wringing too much out of the notes or dryly going through the motions. Even in the simplest of the pieces in Book I, he attends carefully to the shaping of sound, while in the most challenging pieces from the later books, particularly the ones set in compound Bulgarian rhythms, he’s as steady as a spinning top. (If you think it’s only budding pianists who have to contend with the Bulgarian stuff, listen to the scherzo of Bartók’s String Quartet No. 5, and observe four adult string players struggling to keep from going off the rails.)

The recorded sound is as direct as the playing – a solid, pleasantly dry studio sound that makes no attempt at mimicking a recital hall ambience, and is exactly right for the music. Mezzo-soprano Tamara Takács provides the vocals for songs in Books II, III, and V, and pianist Balázs Szokolay does the honors as second pianist in the two-piano pieces sprinkled through the collection.

– Ted Libbey, author of The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection.


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: 8557821-22


  • UPC: 747313282128


  • Label: Naxos


  • Composer: Béla Bartók


  • Performer: Balázs Szokolay, Jénö Jandó, Tamara Takács



Works:


  1. Mikrokosmos, Sz 107: Book 1

    Composer: Béla Bartók

    Performer: Jénö Jandó (Piano)


  2. Mikrokosmos, Sz 107: Book 2

    Composer: Béla Bartók

    Performer: Jénö Jandó (Piano), Balázs Szokolay (Piano), Tamara Takács (Mezzo Soprano)


  3. Mikrokosmos, Sz 107: Book 3

    Composer: Béla Bartók

    Performer: Jénö Jandó (Piano), Balázs Szokolay (Piano), Tamara Takács (Mezzo Soprano)


  4. Mikrokosmos, Sz 107: Book 4

    Composer: Béla Bartók

    Performer: Jénö Jandó (Piano)


  5. Mikrokosmos, Sz 107: Book 5

    Composer: Béla Bartók

    Performer: Jénö Jandó (Piano), Tamara Takács (Mezzo Soprano)


  6. Mikrokosmos, Sz 107: Book 6

    Composer: Béla Bartók

    Performer: Jénö Jandó (Piano)


  7. Mikrokosmos, Sz 107

    Composer: Béla Bartók

    Performer: Jénö Jandó (Piano)