The piano playing of Béla Bartók (1881–1945) immortalized on sound recordings is an inexhaustible fount and an invaluable treasure trove not only for musicologists, composers and contemporary performing artists but also for the wider public. The significance of this rich material, which, however, is rather uneven in quality, is, on the one hand, that Bartók performed as a concert artist from 1904 for four decades almost without interrruption. Thus, through his interpretations, we can gain a subtle impression of European performance practice in the early 20th century and especially of the period between the two World Wars. On the other hand, from 1908 Bartók played his own compositions more and more frequently and these performances can bring us closer to understanding his compositional genius, stylistic periods, and creative methods. A third aspect, which might be the most important for music-lovers, is that one can observe in Bartók’s piano playing such humanism, such love of music and humanity, such perfect balance of honouring tradition while being progressive, that it is probably unprecedented internationally. These are the reasons why the complete centenary edition of his recordings by Hungaroton in 1981 was such an worthwhile undertaking. The present edition, appearing after another 35 years, offers a kind of distillation, a content-related notional essence of the previous publication.
℗ 1991, 1995 Hungaroton
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