Norman Lebrecht’s Album of the Week – Splinters
The opening of György Kurtág’s Splinters suite sounds like the tuner has arrived and is giving your piano a workover. Then the second phrase chimes in and you realise that you have never listened properly to a piano before.
In one minute and seven seconds, a Hungarian composer takes off both your ears, gives them a rinse and polish and leaves them half a tone sharper than before. This is a specialist service offered only by Hungarian composers and their interpreters. Few perform it better than Mariann Marczi, a teacher at Budapest’s Franz Liszt Academy.
She follows austere Kurtág with an extended aphorism of György Ligeti’s and a meditation by Zoltan Kodaly, best known for exotic orchestral overtures but here measuring out each note like Bluebeard enumerating wives. An autumnal reflection by Laszlo Lajtha yearns for a Paris boulevard, while three Béla Bartók burlesques threaten to tip the piano totally off its casters. Two living composers, Zoltan Jeney and Gyula Csapó, round off an original album without a single superfluous note. Solo piano in Hungarian is a world unto itself, a world apart.
Norman Lebrecht is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and other publications. He has written 12 books about music, the most recent being Why Mahler? He hosts the blog Slipped Disc.