Bartók: The Works for Violin and Piano

Reviewed on Mon 06 Jun, 2016

The masterwork here is the taut and concise 1944 Sonata for Solo Violin, commissioned by Yehudi Menuhin and written during Bartók’s final exile in America.

Generously filling two discs, Bartók’s complete works for violin with piano are joined here by the 1926 Piano Sonata and the late Sonata for Solo Violin. The Andante and Sonata in E minor (1902/3) are youthful works and not reflective of Bartók’s mature style. The two 1928 Rhapsodies, and Zoltán Székely’s popular arrangement of the Romanian Folkdances) are highly enjoyable, as are the two mature duo Sonatas. The masterwork here, however, is the taut and concise 1944 Sonata for Solo Violin, commissioned by Menuhin and written during Bartók’s final exile in America. Playing and recording are generally exemplary (am I alone in feeling slightly disappointed with the Székely performance?), and there is a strong sense of Tanja Becker-Bender and Péter Nagy’s mutual respect and maturity of relationship (far removed from the 'Heifetz and pianist' model). Above all, I loved the gritty excitement of these performances.
–Chris Achenbach