Review of Bartók Electrified by Párniczky Quartet, BMC, 2018
Bartók was an exceptional musician and composer. He was fascinated not only by folk music, but by jazz and improvisation as a potential form of musical style, and a testimony to this interest was Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs. He also composed a piece of music for Benny Goodman, the most successful jazz player in the swing era. The Hungarian guitarist Andras Párniczky has composed / rearranged / revisited his repertoire using some of Bartók’s shorter pieces such as Mikrokozmosz, Easy Pieces for Piano or Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano. His is a musical operation that is at the same time courageous, intriguing and contemporary. An operation made possible by the expiry of copyright on the works of Bartok, which took place in 2015, and the desire to re-propose in a more modern and jazz way his works, with a music that is both complex and emotional. At the same times, all this allows the Párniczky Quartet to maintain its own recognizable, saturated and decidedly energetic sound. I agree with what Béla Szilárd Jávorszky wrote in the booklet that accompanies the cd:
“Bartók was a proud, sincere character, who brooked no compromise, who was at one and the same time a late Romantic composer full of feeling, and an incredible, lean, determined ethnomusicologist, who composed with surgical precision’ said Párniczky. At the same time, Bartók, referred to as contemporary even seventy-two years after his death, was one of the last composers not to exploit in any way whatsoever the opportunities afforded by electronics. One reason Párniczky decided to call his project Bartók Electrified was because for years he had been curious as to how these works, which he loved in their original form, would sound on electric instruments.
Most of the music chosen is from Bartók’s short pieces: some of them have been translated into a jazz idiom ‘as is’, while others he has played around with considerably, using them as a source of inspiration. He has endeavoured to keep a constant balance between Bartók’s ideas and improvisation, even though the jazz impro in these compositions doesn’t necessarily happen in the same way as in the standards. In several instances he had to write improvisatory riffs for Bartók’s themes, but there are some pieces where there aren’t even riffs, and basically he and the band play free impro.”
Bartók Electrified is a great job, let yourself be tempted by the ideas of the Párniczky Quartet.