Bartók's piano music has the appearance of simplicity, and many of its notes are mere grace-notes, so the games which Bartók plays with rhythm and counterpoint, and with moments of impressionism, make very special demands on the pianist. Possessing an instinctive feel for that impressionism, and for the ebb and flow of those rhythms with their little hesitations and sudden rushes forward, Cédric Tiberghien is ideally fitted for this task. Moreover the selection of works on this CD makes a very satisfying survey of the Bartókian piano œuvre.
Every piece here is in one way or another an experiment, including the unassuming little Suite, whose Allegretto and Scherzo reflect the composer's researches into Romanian and North African styles respectively, while its concluding Sostenuto floats and dreams in a very Debussian manner. Out of Doors brings one of Bartók's most magical piece of night-music with softly-whirring hover-flies, croaking frogs and chirruping birds: here Tiberghien is in his element, as he is with the bagpipe-evocations via vibrating trills and slammed chordal dissonances. He wittily brings out the drunkenness in the second Burlesque—you can visualise the stumbling belching figure—and for 'Quarrel' he turns on some effortless virtuosity.
But the chief glory of this recording lies in what Tiberghien does with the Peasant Songs and the sixth book of Mikrokosmos. Each of the songs is sharply characterised and the pulse throughout follows the heartbeat. Meanwhile Mikrokosmos is delivered with charm, each note perfectly weighted, and with the concluding display of Bulgarian rhythms making a brilliant envoi to the record as a whole.