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£67.49

Classical - Released January 1, 2005 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

To Bartók, the piano was a modernist percussion instrument of hammers and wires and pedals, an instrument that couldn't be less suited for the long legato lines and smooth, sculpted sound of nineteenth century piano music, but that also couldn't be more suited for the sharp-cornered, hard-edged sound of twentieth century piano music, particularly Bartók's own piano music. And while earlier pianists have tried to capture Bartók's particularly percussive style of piano writing, nearly all of them were brought up in the nineteenth century and thus, intentionally or not, rounded off Bartók's corners and blunted his edges. Not Zoltán Kocsis; as a Hungarian pianist, Kocsis was born playing Bartók's melodies, harmonies, and rhythms, and as a twentieth century pianist, Kocsis is utterly at home in Bartók's sharp, hard, and edgy world. In this complete set of all Bartók's music for solo piano, Kocsis turns in what may be the finest set of the music in recorded history. Everything from the easiest Microkosmos through the insanely demanding Allegro barbaro is brilliantly performed, thoroughly convincing, and absolutely enjoyable, and nothing sounds long, smooth, or round. While certainly not intended to be listened to all in one sitting, Kocsis' Bartók set is the one to have if you're having only one. Philips' piano sound is, as always, crisp, vivid, and just about real.
£55.99

Classical - Released January 1, 2009 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

£55.99

Classical - Released January 1, 2005 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Booklet
£31.96

Classical - Released November 1, 2014 | Hungaroton

£31.96

Classical - Released July 15, 2014 | Hungaroton

£23.49

Classical - Released January 1, 2006 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

£30.99

Classical - Released January 21, 2008 | Warner Classics

£23.97

Classical - Released January 1, 2015 | Hungaroton

£23.97

Chamber Music - Released December 1, 2014 | Hungaroton

£17.99

Classical - Released May 20, 2016 | Universal Music Australia Pty. Ltd.

£17.99

Classical - Released March 19, 1999 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

£11.49

Classical - Released January 1, 1993 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

£20.99

Classical - Released August 4, 2008 | Warner Classics

£17.99

Classical - Released January 1, 1988 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year
£17.99

Classical - Released January 1, 2000 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Several ensembles have established international reputations by playing Béla Bartók's six string quartets with authority and strong character, notably the Juilliard, the Takács, and the Emerson, and countless others aspire to achieve equal renown with these celebrated works. Because this cycle is essentially the bible of modern writing for string quartet, it has become a test for string players, not least because of the many technical challenges it presents, but more importantly for the expressive demands Bartók makes on individual players and the ensemble as a whole. There's little doubt that the Hagen Quartet has the skills to deliver this music with accuracy and the physical stamina to play with the steadiness such difficult music requires. However, this is in many places a surprisingly subdued interpretation of the quartets, perhaps more oriented toward the melancholy strain that runs through Bartók's music, rather than toward the vigorous or caustic sides of his genius. To be sure, the Hagen Quartet ignites in crucial places, and when it has to be direct and forceful, it gets the job done. But the feelings this set communicates are not quite bracing and energetic like the Juilliard's three recordings, fiery or passionate like the Takács' set, or incisive and driven like the Emerson's, but pensive and brooding, and the general tonal cast of these performances is of a grayer shade or lower energy in spots than one might expect. This, naturally, is fairly suitable in the string quartets, Nos. 1, 2, and 6, which are among Bartók's more depressed expressions, but it isn't especially desirable in Nos. 3, 4, and 5, where a brighter, harder edge is necessary. Listeners will certainly derive much pleasure from particular movements in these performances, and may even enjoy some of the quartets separately from the set, but it will be difficult for them to rank the whole album among the greatest Bartók recordings.
£11.49

Classical - Released January 1, 2002 | Decca Music Group Ltd.