Monday, March 29, 2010

Szigeti: 20th Century Masterpieces

Szigeti and his teacher, Hubay

These performances by Joseph Szigeti, made in 1952 and 1959, were drawn from 3 different LPs. I owe the Bartok and Ives Sonatas to a Japanese pressing of a Philips disc - 13PC-95. The Cowell Sonata came from a Columbia Special Products LP in the Modern American Music Series. The work was dedicated to Szigeti, who worked closely with the composer during its composition, and who made this, its first recording, in 1952. The Webern 4 Pieces come from a Mercury LP MG50442.

Included are:
Henry Cowell 1st Sonata for Violin and Piano with Carlo Bussotti, piano
Bela Bartok 2nd Sonata for Violin and Piano with Roy Bogas, piano
Charles Ives 4th Sonata for Violin and Piano with Roy Bogas
Anton Webern Four Pieces Op. 7 with Roy Bogas

By 1959 Szigeti was showing serious signs of technical decline owing to the progression of debilitating bone disease and arthritis. Nonetheless, there is a musical personality of strong convictions and a spirit of dedication to the works at hand that shines through these performances, making them indispensable to the Szigeti aficionado and a decided benefit to anyone with ears to hear music making that goes beyond ailing arms and fingers. The Bartok and Ives are works Szigeti recorded in his prime, being the first to record the Ives, and I highly recommend those performances; but these late efforts are justified by the musical intelligence of Szigeti's restless imagination, while the short Webern pieces, of unparallelled abstract beauty, are played with an intellectual and emotional commitment that belies the notion that the school of musical thought from which they arose is deservedly dead. In Szigeti's capable, though by now arthritic hands, this music gains the living breath it deserves.

The recording information is contained in a separate text file, available with the other linked content.

Link to all files


  1. Thanks so much! I've been looking everywhere for the Cowell. I wonder if you could tell me
    whether it is identical to ML 4841 which includes Harold Shapero playing his Sonata for
    Piano Four Hands. I've never actually seen this
    record; some sources list Bussotti as Szigeti's
    partner, others say it's the composer himself.

  2. It is indeed the record with the Shapero Sonata. I'll gather the appropriate information for these posts and upload it this afternoon. Bussotti is the pianist in the Cowell. Shapiro and Smit play the 4 hand sonata of the former, which I will include in some other post.

    I like the Cowell Sonata a lot. Szigeti's playing of it, and of the Ives, has sometimes been considered not "American" enough, though Cowell wrote the sonata for him. Go figure. I frankly do not understand what that means if we are dealing -- as we are -- with wonderful music and not curiosities of Americana.

  3. I just noticed that Roy Bogas was the pianist for the Ives, Bartok, and Webern. What a coincidence! I heard him play in a concert at
    Holy Names University only a few weeks ago.
    I believe he studied with the great Rosina

  4. Having issues with the Bartok FLAC download. I cannot open the file or convert it to WAV lik e the others. Can you check if the file is corrupt please? I am on Windows XP.

  5. Hello John: The problem should be fixed now. I uploaded the FLAC file in question again, downloaded it, unpacked it, decoded it to WAV, and then played it in media player. I'm on XP too, with every intention to avoid Windows 7 until it is more generally supported. I suspect things are being corrupted just sitting on mediafire's server, since this file had been downloaded 30 times already with no one saying anything. (And I do hope to hear if something is amiss, so thanks for letting me know).