BARTOK: Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 2 and 3

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Bela Bartok (1881 - 1945)

Piano Concerto No.1

Piano Concerto No.2

Piano Concerto No.3

The Hungarian composer Bela Bartok was born in 1881 in an area that nowforms part of Romania. His father, director of an agricultural college, was akeen amateur musician, while it was from his mother that he received his earlypiano lessons. The death of his father in 18891ed to a less settled existence,as his mother resumed work as a teacher, eventually settling in the Slovakcapital of Bratislava (the Hungarian Pozsony), where Bartok passed his earlyadolescence, counting among his school- fellows the composer Erno Dohnanyi.

Offered the chance of musical training in Vienna, like Dohnanyi he choseinstead Budapest, where he won a considerable reputation as a pianist, beingappointed to the teaching staff of the Academy of Music in 1907. At the sametime he developed a deep interest, shared with his compatriot Zoltan Kodaly,in the folk-music of his own and adjacent countries, later extended as far asAnatolia, where he collaborated in research with the Turkish composer AdnanSayg??n.

As a composer Bartok found acceptance much more difficult, particularly inhis own country , which was, in any case, beset by political troubles, when thebrief post- war left-wing government of Bela Kun was replaced by thereactionary regime of Admirai Horthy. Meanwhile his reputation abroad grew,particularly among those with an interest in contemporary music, and his successboth as a pianist and as a composer, coupled with dissatisfaction at the growingassociation between the Horthy government and National Socialist Germany, ledhim in 1940to emigrate to the United States of America

In his last years, after briefly held teaching appointments at Columbia andHarvard, Bartok suffered from increasing ill-health, and from poverty which theconditions of exile in war-time could do nothing to alleviate. He died instraitened circumstances in 1945, leaving a new Viola Concerto incompleteand a Third Piano Concerto more nearly finished. The years in America,whatever difficulties they brought, also gave rise to other importantcompositions, including the Concerto for Orchestra, commissioned by theKoussevitzky Foundation, a Sonata for Solo Violin for Vehudi Menuhin and,in the year before he left Hungary, Contrasts, for Szigeti and BennyGoodman.

Bartok's compositions for piano and orchestra include, in addition to thethree concertos, a Rhapsody and a Scherzo. The first of the piano concertos waswritten in the summer and autumn of 1926 in Budapest and first performed at theISCM Festival in Frankfurt the following July, with the composer as soloist andthe conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler. The style of piano-writing is generallypercussive and there is a frequent use of dissonant intervals, leading acontemporary American critic to castigate the work as one of "unmitigatedugliness". This is hardly a judgement that would be echoed now, when themusic of Bartok is better understood. Described by the composer as in E minor,the concerto may certainly be taken as centring on this tonality. The firstmovement is in broadly classical sonata-allegro form, with a first and secondsubject group forming the exposition, a central development section, beginningwith the re-appearance of the principal theme, which is also heard transposed inthe recapitulation section, which presents much of the material already used,but now modified. The movement moves forward to an exciting conclusion,propelled by the insistent motor rhythm inherent in the thematic material In theslow movement the composer gives meticulous instructions to the threepercussion-players, manning timpani, bassdrum, snare drum, side drum withoutsnare, triangle, suspended cymbals, to be placed immediately behind the piano.

The structure of the movement is tripartite, the third section a much modifiedreturn of the first. A rapider interlude leads to the finale, its first themeheard over the continuing impetus of an ostinato, as the movement, whichincludes rhythmic and thematic elements derived from the first movement, isimpelled forward

The Second Piano Concerto was written between October 1930 and theautumn of 1931. It was first performed in Frankfurt in January 1933. TheFrankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Han. Rosbaud, with thecomposer as soloist. There followed performances at the ISCM Festival inAmsterdam, in London, Strasbourg, Stockholm, Vienna, Winterthur and Z??rich,with a performance in Budapest in which Louis Kentner was the soloist. Of evenmore compelling energy than the earlier concerto, the new work is again in threemovements, the third of which uses material from the first Bartok claimed thatthe concerto was in contrast to the fast with orchestral writing that was lessdemanding and with thematic material of more obvious attraction. The openingmovement, without strings, has two broad subject groups, a central developmentand a recapitulation, including a piano cadenza It is tightly constructed, withsequential formations that suggest the Baroque concerto form. The secondmovement contains in itself both a slow movement and a scherzo. It is in ternaryform, with a rapid central section, with the Adagio in the mood of night musicthat is so often a feature of Bartok's writing. Here the piano, accompanied bypercussion, offers a form of meditative recitative, interrupted by a centralbout of hyperactivity. Material from the first movement, rhythmically modified,with a new principal theme framing rondo episodes derived from the firstmovement.

The Third Piano Concerto was left unfinished at the time of Bartok'sdeath in 1945 In his last weeks he worked simultaneously on the ViolaConcerto commissioned by William Primrose and the Piano Concerto. Theformer work, he claimed, needed only to be written out in score, although a morecomplex task in fact remained for his friend and compatriot Tibor Serly, whoreconstructed the Viola Concerto and completed the last seventeen bars ofthe Piano Concerto. The latter was first performed in February 1946 withthe Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy and the pianist Gyorgy Saandor.

It differs in many ways from the two earlier concertos, lacking much of thatpercussive writing and generally presenting music that is clearer in its appeal,with the piano very much more of a melodic than percussive instrument. The firstmovement has a first subject of Hungarian or Romanian flavour. The nature of thethematic material is revealed in the central development. The second movementmarked Adagio religioso, opens with a chorale-like theme and there is anevocative central night-music section, with answering bird-calls, before thewoodwind bring back the chorale, to which the piano has its own additions tomake. The last movement is broadly in rondo form, its characteristic principaltheme re-appearing to frame contrasting episodes of continued contrapuntalingenuity, now in the musical language of great clarity that characterizes the Concertofor Orchestra.

Jeno Jando

The Hungarian pianist Jeno Jando has won a number of piano competitions inHungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concoursand a first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney InternationalPiano Competition in 1977. He has recorded for Naxos all the piano concertos andsonatas of Mozart Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos ofGrieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and PaganiniRhapsody and Beethoven's complete piano sonatas.

Item number 8550771
Barcode 730099577120
Release date 01/01/2000
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Jando, Jeno
Jando, Jeno
Composers Bartok, Bela
Bartok, Bela
Conductors Ligeti, Andras
Ligeti, Andras
Orchestras Budapest Symphony Orchestra
Budapest Symphony Orchestra
Producers Toth, Ibolya
Toth, Ibolya
Disc: 1
Piano Concerto No. 3, Sz 119
1 I. Allegro moderato
2 II. Andante
3 III. Allegro molto
4 I. Allegro
5 II. Adagio - Piu adagio - Presto
6 III. Allegro molto
7 I. Allegretto
8 II. Adagio religioso
9 III. Allegro vivace
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