Fülöp Ránki: Béla Bartók Piano Music Vol.8 Rhapsody, Variations, For Children, Études

The first seven volumes in Naxos’ series of Béla Bartók’s complete piano works were recorded by Jeno Jandó, one of Naxos’ longest established artists, but for this he has handed over to one of his students, Fülöp Ránki, a young Hungarian pianist; this is his Naxos debut, and he plays impressively.

It’s a rich and meaty programme of music, often dense, though never challenging; the pieces for children are meant to warm up and stretch little fingers but they’re quite technical, and the sleeve notes say that skilled players also enjoy them. Some are not as printed but were transcribed from a radio performance given by Bartók himself in early 1945.

The sleeve notes say that Bartók’s formative years as a composer in Budapest were stimulated by fashionable musical salons hosted by the wealthy Emma Gruber (later Zoltán Kodály’s wife).
Rhapsody, op.1, the second piece on the CD, is dedicated to Gruber, while the Variations, which close, were a romantic homage to his talented colleague Felicie Fábián, composer of the theme.

The Études focus on hand flexibility for pianists – the pieces for children are based on Hungarian and Slovak peasant songs partly collected by Bartók and range from pieces that sound like folk tunes to a sea shanty and even a slower and mournful section that cries out for words. These sounds caused Bartók to change his approach to composing, and he likened the arranging of a peasant melody to “the mounting of a jewel”, producing “extremely effective miniature masterpieces of graceful perfection”.

A satisfying but straightforward collection of piano pieces.

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