Bartok's two sonatas for violin and piano make no attempt to sweet-talk listeners into loving them. With their abrasive harmonies, jagged themes, and atonality only a fraction of an inch away, they ask a lot from both performers and audiences. But Bartok wrote them in the early 1920s at a time when his creative powers were at white heat, firing off one innovative idea after another.
BARTOK: The Complete Music for Violin and Piano, V. 1: Sonatas Nos.1 and 2 for Violin and Piano; Rhapsodies Nos.1 and 2 for Violin and Piano; Andante for Violin and Piano. James Ehnes (violin), Andrew Armstrong (piano). Chandos, CD or download.
When listening to these two pieces it is impossible not to feel and share Bartok's own excitement as he found new ways to fuse the Hungarian folk music he loved with brand-new compositional techniques. The result, in a sympathetic performance that is up to the music's fierce demands, is thrilling listening.
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