There are several reasons to own this Vox Box 2CD set. For the first, it includes five great violin concertos in some of the very best performances in their discography. For the second, Ivry Gitlis (born 1922) is a great living violinist and these recordings made in early 1950s show his art in the best way, when Ivry's violin sounded powerful and brilliant.
The Végh Quartet was not only one of the finest string quartets from mid-twentieth century Europe, but its style was never subjected to radical change over the years from personnel changes because the four original players remained members for 38 of the 40 years of the ensemble's existence. Its style evolved in subtle ways, of course, but its essential character endured until 1978: the quartet was Central European in its sound, with a bit more prominence given to the cello in order to build tonal qualities from the bottom upward. The Végh Quartet was best known for its cycles – two each – of the Beethoven and Bartók quartets. It also performed and recorded many of the Haydn quartets, as well as numerous other staples of the repertory by Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, and Debussy. For a group that disbanded in 1980, its recordings are still quite popular, with major efforts available in varied reissues from Music & Arts, Archipel, Naïve, and Orfeo.
In many performances of the Bartok Solo Sonata its legendary difficulty is more apparent than its beauty and nobility: the violinist sweats profusely in a cloud of resin dust, his bow reduced to a tangle of snapped horse-hair, and the sound he produces is gritty and rebarbative, eloquently expressive of strenuous effort. Nigel Kennedy's account is the most warmly lyrical that I have heard, his tone beautiful and expressive in even the most hair-raising passages.
This is quite simply one of the most important and consistently superbly executed recording projects of all time. Bartók's piano music isn't exactly overrepresented on disc, being as it is without doubt one of the most important piano oeuvres ever composed, and in the hand of Zoltán Kocsis, doubtlessly one of the greatest pianists alive today, one should expect some superb discs where the works at long last receive the treatment they deserve. In fact, the actual result surpasses any possible expectations.
On this specially-priced 8-CD set Zoltan Kocsis performs the complete solo piano music of his fellow Hungarian, B la Bart k. Completed in 2001, these critically acclaimed, definitive performances are the benchmark against which all others are considered.
This new set on the revived Näive label comes from the Quatuor Diotima, long-associated with thorny contemporary repertoire. They're marvellous here, forensically accurate but never driving the music too hard…An outstanding achievement then, and a library choice. These quartets aren't always easy listening, but they contain some of the last century's most profound and emotionally affecting music. If you've not heard them before, start here.