- Piano Concerto No. 1 in A major, Sz. 83, BB 91
- Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Sz. 95, BB 101
- Piano Concerto No. 3 in E major, Sz. 119, BB 127 (completed by Tibor Serly)
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Composed over three consecutive decades (the First in 1926, the Second in the early '30s, and the Third in 1945 during the composer's final days), Bela Bart�k's piano concertos have never been fully accepted into the standard repertoire -- a puzzling fate for such powerful and exhilarating music. Pierre Boulez plainly feels the works deserve better, asserting on the CD cover: "For me Bart�k's piano concertos belong to the climax of his output. You cannot describe the 20th century without mentioning these works." Accordingly, he has devoted this release -- one of the first in his 80th-birthday celebration series for Deutsche Grammophon -- to the three works, assembling an impressive group of leading pianists and orchestras, with each concerto boasting a different combination of artists. Krystian Zimerman tackles the First, perhaps the most percussive and rhythmically driving of the lot; paired with the Chicago Symphony, Zimerman seems to take a chamber musician's view, thoughtfully melding his part with the orchestra. Leif Ove Andsnes and the Berlin Philharmonic unite for the Second; this work is a close sibling to the First in its rhythmic vigor but is even more technically demanding -- indeed, it's one of the most difficult concertos ever composed. The generally cool-tempered Andsnes rises to the challenge with a note-perfect performance that doesn't skimp on animal energy. H�l�ne Grimaud joins the London Symphony for the last concerto; more lyrical and less rhythmically aggressive than the earlier scores, this concerto benefits from Grimuad's lucid playing, and the LSO comes off as the most polished ensemble on the disc. Boulez communicates his zeal for the music from beginning to end, leading performances that are both technically solid and thrillingly electric. Assembled from disparate recording sessions that took place between 2001 and '04, the disc is a must for anyone interested in this repertoire, and by offering an assortment of soloists and ensembles, it has the advantage of variety over other complete sets like those from Anda, Kovacevich, and Jando.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Complete (Three) Bartók Piano Concerti played by three superb pianists supported by three top ranking orchestras + Pierre Boulez equals an unqualified success. One wonders who thought of this format - Boulez, DGG,...? It matters little because the concept of recording each of these glorious Bartók concerti with different soloists and orchestras is like having a good seat on the touring bus with Boulez as he makes his rounds on the podiums of the world's orchestras. Matching pianists with concerti is a luxury in which Boulez and his intense musicality melds well. For the quirky First Concerto the treacherous score is manned evenly between Krystian Zimmerman and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. For the more lyrical Second Concerto Leif Ove Andsnes is graced by the presence of the magnificent Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. And for the sweet and melancholic Third Concerto Hélène Grimaud collaborates with the London Symphony Orchestra in as fine a performance as is available on CD. But given the graces of soloists and orchestras, this very fine recording would not have been so in tune with Béla Bartók were it not for the sensitive, perceptive skills of Boulez. He finds the riches of each orchestra's attributes and allows us to hear just why each is so fine. The three interpretations are clearly guided by Boulez' uncanny ability to find the core of the score and allow it to sing. This is one of those recordings that is a first choice for collectors. Absolutely superb! Grady Harp