Béla Bartók (1881-1945)

Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion: III. Allegro non troppo

Bartók composed his Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion in 1937, though his fascination for combining piano with other percussive instruments dates back to 1926 and the remarkable slow movement of his first piano concerto, scored only for piano, percussion and winds. Bartók and his wife Ditta Pásztory gave the first performance of the sonata on 16 January 1938 in Basel. Later that year Solti (who had studied piano (but not composition) with Bartók at the Liszt Music Academy in Budapest), was called upon at the last minute to turn pages for Ditta Pásztory when she and her husband introduced the work to Hungarian audiences at the Budapest Opera House, with Ernest Ansermet conducting. “As I had not seen the complicated score before, the task was not easy. I have never in my life attended any other performance that had as little success as this one. When the piece ended, most of the audience remained silent…I felt sad and embarrassed for Bartók” (Memoirs, 36). Solti went on to perform the work himself in Geneva after winning first prize in the piano division of the Swiss Music Competition in 1942. Forty-five years later, in 1987, he recorded the work with pianist Murray Perahia and percussionists David Corkhill and Evelyn Glennie.

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