In the last decade of his life we heard far too little of Zoltán Kocsis, the pianist and conductor who who died on 6 November. But part of Kocsis’s enduring legacy on disc is sure to be the survey of Bartók’s piano music that he completed for Philips in the early 2000s, and it’s a measure of the quality of Cédric Tiberghien’s series that it promises to rival Kocsis’s set when complete. This is the second instalment, and like the first, which came out in March, it is made up entirely of miniatures including the Romanian Folk Dances, the Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, and the Fourteen Bagatelles. There are 47 tracks in all; the longest of them is the Allegro Barbaro, from 1911, one of Bartók’s earliest exercises in rhythmic primitivism.
Tiberghien’s previous disc included the sixth and final book of Mikrokosmos, the graded collection of teaching pieces that Bartók assembled between 1926 and 1939. Here his sequence ends with the previous book—less demanding, but still searching explorations of pianistic technique and musical comprehension. As with everything here, Tiberghien catches the essence of each piece instantly, and brings to all of them a sense of freshness and discovery, as well as the ability to combine expressive freedom with rhythmic precision in a remarkable way.