French pianist Cédric Tiberghien opens the third disc of his Bartók series with the Hungarian composer’s First Piano Sonata. Tiberghien’s rendition is heavy with rubato, giving the first movement a quirky, lurching feel – very different to the driving forward momentum of Claude Helffer or the solid pacing of Alain Planés, who have recorded the work for Harmonia Mundi. But if the rhythm feels wayward, the tone sparkles – Tiberghien wrings as much glitter as he does crunch from the dissonant folk-harmonies, and the recording quality is immaculate. There is a gravitas to the Sostenuto E Pesante and a crisp, dancing energy to the Allegro Molto.
Tiberghien’s translucent sound and spacious approach in the Three Hungarian Folk Songs from the Csík District – settings of melodies the composer heard played on a peasant flute – imbues these miniatures with a sense of mystery, while Tiberghien revels in the eccentric characters of the Bagpipers and the lumbering Bear Dance in Bartók’s Sonatina.
The lively Three Rondos on Slovak Folk Tunes feel clean and simply drawn compared with the darker, more complex Opus 18 Etudes that follow, before the disc culminates with Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. Pianist François-Frédéric Guy and percussionists Colin Currie and Sam Walton bring a burst of colour that is slightly jolting after so much raw piano, but the ensemble’s fierce, jazzy delivery makes for an exciting climax to a disc full of personality and flair.