June de Toth will be the first woman in history to record all of Bartók's solo piano works.
"The best musician sent to us from the States."
Jornal Do Noticias (Lisbon, Portugal)
"She gave a clear vision of the eternity of the great Gods of music."
Le Guide du Concert et du Disque (Paris, France)
Bartók's Third Piano Concerto with guest soloist June de Toth would bring raves anywhere."
David Noble (Santa Fe, NM)
June de Toth won two major European piano competitions, resulting in scholarships to the Santa Cecilia Academy in Rome and the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Her teachers included Rudolf Firkusny, Friedrich Gulda, Carlo Zecchi, and Kurt Leimer (nephew of Karl Leimer, the acclaimed pedagogue of Walter Gieseking).
She was also awarded First Place in the International Piano Concerto competition in Salzburg, which resulted in a highly coveted debut performance with the Mozarteum Orchestra, playing the Brahms Piano Concerto in B-flat.
The appearance, a critically acclaimed triumph, led to recitals in Italy, France, Yugoslavia, Spain and Portugal, where critics hailed her as "the best musician sent to us from the States."
She has appeared as guest soloist with symphony orchestras in Portugal, Italy, and (former) Yugoslavia; and in the United States with the Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Sun City, Detroit Women's, and Detroit Symphony Orchestras.
She made her television debut on PBS-TV in 1991 with an "All Mozart" recital. A full color professionally recorded video tape of this performance is available from Eroica Classical Recordings on the ordering page.
Hungarian-American pianist June de Toth has championed the piano music of Bela Bartok throughout a critically acclaimed concert career in the United States and Europe.
She has recently released Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of Bartok's Solo Piano Works on the Eroica label, the first of 7 Volumes in progress. She will be the first woman to record the complete solo piano works.
In October, 1995, she performed an "All Bartok" recital at the Bartok Memorial House in Budapest, Hungary. She was the only American artist invited by the Hungarian government to take part in this 6-week International Festival of Bartok's works, commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death.
She also performed Bartok's music in previous appearances on the European national radio networks of Portugal and Yugoslavia.
She featured his "15 Hungarian Peasant Songs and Dances" in her premiere recording on the Da Vinci label of RCA Victor Red Seal Records.
In her Town Hall debut, she presented the first public "All Bartok" recital in New York City, which was attended by Bartok's son, Peter.
Her Carnegie Hall debut featured Bartok's "Sonata 1926."
She won rave reviews for her performance of Bartok's Third Piano Concerto with the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra.
She performed "All Bartok" recitals at Stanford University, San Francisco State University, the University of New Mexico, and the 25th Anniversary concert series of St. John's College in Santa Fe.
June de Toth's interpretation of Bartók's solo piano music is decidedly her own. She expresses a lyrical and romantic vision of his early poetic works, which were very much influenced by the French impressionist composer Claude Debussy. Her playing also emphasizes the melodic beauty of the Hungarian and other Eastern European folk songs which Bartók wove so masterfully into his compositions.
June de Toth is currently a resident of the culturally rich city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, home of the Santa Fe Opera and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.
Stereophile, June 1996:
June de Toth, a Hungarian-American pianist whose teachers include Gulda and Firkusny, presents a nicely varied selection of the composer's piano works. Her rhythmic verve, supplemented by lots of drive, is especially good in the dances, and one notices, especially in softer passages, that her tonal and dynamic sensitivity serves Bartók particularly well. The third of the Dirges (Vol.1, track 17) is especially gripping, as is the atmospheric rendering of the final movement of the Op.14 Suite in Vol.2. The piano pickup is warm and intimate. -Igor Kipnis
Peter Murano of Classical Net:
In these two Eroica discs, which preserve performances by the only female artist that I know of currently recording Bartók, we are provided an excellent manifestation of the composer's imagination. Volume one includes Bartók's Seven Sketches, Sonata 1926, Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs and Dances, Four Dirges, and Allegro Barbaro, while the second volume contains Suite, Op. 14, Forty-two Hungarian Folksongs, and Three Burlesques. Hungarian-American pianist June de Toth, who studied with Gulda and Firkusny, confesses a spiritual affinity to Bartók, and her sympathetic approach offers a pleasing and successful tribute to a composer famous for incorporating folk material into his compositions. Bartók didn't merely visit the peasants and gypsies for musical inspiration; he took his shoes off, rolled up his sleeves, and "got dirty" to the point where he didn't want to return home. In her interpretations, de Toth reveals the "earthiness" of much of this music, as well as its secret personality. Consider de Toth's handling of the Poco Lento on track seventeen of volume one. Without resorting to the headlong savagery favored by some pianists, de Toth is nonetheless uncannily good at creating the bell-like chords (reminiscent of Rachmaninov's c# Minor Prelude) so crucial to the powerful development of the image of this miniature tone poem. Bartók was a master of rhythm and vitality, and mixed them well in a 20th century blender to concoct his catchy folk tunes and dances. Pianist de Toth herself proves to be an artful combiner, measuring requisite proportions of color, warmth, and energy in these pieces. The Three Burlesques falls strangely on the ear coming after the folksongs, yet de Toth is compelling here, as well as in the spell-casting episodes called Four Dirges. The pianist seemed to add a lyrical turn now and then to the weight and elemental drive of the Sonata, which I found contributed to the ambivalence of the piece. De Toth's shaping of the Sonata, one of this century's masterpieces for piano, offers an interesting alternative to the highly recommended versions recorded by Kocsis, Arrau and Richter. The Seven Sketches are brief and personal portraits, which de Toth characterizes with idiomatic phrasing and subtle shading. The third portrait alone is worth the price of the disc, owing to its ripe musicality. The digital sound quality of each disc is rather close, yet very fine. To conclude, these two Eroica discs deliver a balanced view of a composer who could define subtle musical mysteries as easily as he could head-banging primitivism. That variety of expression, being so finely conceived initially by Bartók and interpreted with insight and compassion by pianist de Toth, should offer grounds for deeper exploration and appreciation of Bartók by the general listener. Recommended. Available from Eroica Classical Recordings Peter Murano
Review of The Week by Robert Moore, Musical Planet:
Bela Bartók: Solo Piano Works, Vol. I & II
It's really too bad that the music of Bartók is such a big secret to most people. Granted, Bartók did write (gasp) dissonant music from time to time, but what marvelously tantalizing dissonance it is. How sad that scary movies have provided most people with their only real exposure to music of this variety - and then they weren't even paying attention because they were waiting for The Slasher to come out from the shadows and dispatch somebody with their usual crimson Hollywood aplomb.
The pianist for these 2 CDs, Hungarian-American June De Toth has made history with this ambitious series of recordings - as she is the only woman to ever undertake the daunting task of recording the complete solo piano music of Bartók. And it's just as well, because her performances of these works shows a keen insight into the texture and mechanics of Bartók's often difficult piano compositions. Her crystalline and lean interpretations strike me as extremely appropriate, and they make for a set of recordings which, aside from their otherwise historical significance, are WELL worth going out 'n getting ahold of. These recordings ROCK!
Volume I begins with Seven Sketches, a series of compositions from 1908-1910 which show Bartók at the beginning of his compositional career. The spiky sonoroties and 40-weight dissonances from his mature period are lurking in the undergrowth of this music, but every once in a while we get a strong whiff of the later Power Bartók music. The recording continues with the curiously cryptic Sonata 1926, 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs And Dances, Four Dirges, and the ever-popular Allegro Barbaro. Volume II contains Suite, Opus 14, For Children "42 Hungarian Folk Songs", and finishes off with Three Burlesques, Op.8c.
Taking a step back and giving it The Long View, I have to ask myself how come, in the 20+ years I have been studying and listening to music, I have never encountered most of this material before. I have never even seen recordings of the majority of this stuff - and I would like to know why nobody bothers to record it. This is great stuff. I particularly like the 42 Hungarian Folk Songs from Volume II, they are brief and highly tuneful little compositions whose grace and simple beauty go a long way towards explaining Bartók's fascination with the folk music of his native Hungary. And why not? After all, Bartók spent an awful lot of time roaming the Hungarian countryside with his buddy Zoltan Kodaly and pestering the locals into giving a rendition of their local folk music. He even recorded this stuff on genuine Lo-Fi wax cylinders and then spent even more time scribbling it all down. Were it not for this fact, much of this highly attractive music would be lost to humanity by now.
There's something about the folk music of the old Austro-Hungarian empire which I have always found attractive. Particularly when it has been squished through Bartók's unique compositional tendencies. The music has an unabashed dissonance, and often carries itself forward festooned in odd phrase lengths, odd time signatures, weird cross-key relationships and very interesting cadential phrase-endings. This tendency is mostly evident in the 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs And Dances from Volume I of this set, and in the Suite, Op.14 from Volume II, it's all over the place.
Ms. De Toth plays this music with all the conviction of an accomplished master interpreter of Bartók. She must also have Biceps Of Steel and a very hardy constitution in order to be able to pull off this stuff in her many critically-acclaimed international performances. The Sonata 1926 is a case in point. Doing a recital with just that piece alone would be labor enough for yer average pianist, but I am given to understand that Ms. De Toth plunges ahead and lays it on even thicker-er with additional pieces from her repertoire. I can't wait to hear what she does with Mikrokosmos.
Well, look folks, I don't wanna lay it on too thick here - if you aren't familiar with the music of Bartók, either of these 2 CDs would be a GREAT place to start your exploration of that intricate Hungarian Mastermind. But if you're already a Bartók fan, this set contains enough material to keep you going long into the night and most of the next day. Take my advice: GO BUY THIS THING!
AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE: March/April 1999
Bartók: Piano Works. June de Toth
Vol 1: 7 Sketches; Sonata 1926; Hungarian Peasant Songs & Dances; Allegro Barbaro
JDT 3000 50 minutes
Vol 2: Suite, op 14; 42 Hungarian Follk Songs for Children; 3 Burlesques
JDT 3002 60 minutes
Vol 3: 6 Romanian Folk Dances; 10 Easy Piano Pieces; 14 Bagatelles; 3 Rondos on Folk Tunes; Romanian Dance 1. JDT 3014 69 minutes
There's more to Bartók's music than meets the eye-or the ear. Nowadays the debt he owed to recording technology as far back as 1905 (when he first met Zoltan Kodaly) is little more than a dim memory, save for a handful of scholars and his most ardent devotees. But Bartók was a devoted collector relying on wax cylinders to record and study thousands of indigenous Eastern European folk tunes. Indeed, in his effort to codify in music the diatonic constructions of the gypsy and peasant cultures of Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Romania he elevated the natural charms of a backwoods genre to high art.
It is fitting that the very technology that played midwife to Bartók's melismatic exoticisms now offers an ideal format for their realization. In her exhaustive survey of his complete piano works (these are the first three out of seven CDs), June de Toth proves herself a smart, solid, and reliable pianist. She offers thoughtful and often eloquent readings that reject both hysteria and the kind of kamikaze approach of so many young piano lions. Its overall sobriety and discipline is such that the music speaks for itself. In the wistful 'Street of Istvand', for example, or in the rugged yet oddly seductive sailor song 'In the Harbor of Nagyvarad', her no-nonsense surefootedness gives ample voice to Bartók's nostalgic melancholia. Indeed, in these works, part of the 42 Hungarian Folk Songs for Children, she fathoms each as a kind of apposite gestuary of hemiolas and unnerving hesitations, and as the stuff of musical speech. If Bartók was Hungary's answer to Moussorgsky, nowhere is it more evident than here. Capturing the essentially trochaic inflections of Hungarian speech with the knowing temperament of a native (Ms de Toth is full blood Hungarian) she lays out the keyboard songs with the patrician air of an old storyteller at a family gathering.
Whatever one's ideas and taste may be in interpretation of Bartók, her performances are persuasive. Take particular note of her attractive readings of the 14 Bagatelles: these she portrays with a kind of arid simplicity that enhances their now playful, now lonely ethos.
This set would make an ideal introduction to Bartók's piano music, especially if you are still unfamiliar with the bulk of it. These are urbane, honest, eminently intelligible interpretations that will draw the uninitiated into the texts of this extraordinarily rich music. YOUNG
Santa Fe Symphony appearance: ''Bartók's Third Piano Concerto, with guest soloist June De Toth, would bring raves anywhere. She injected driving energy into the first movement exposition, and the lamentation and tragic impression soloist and orchestra brought out of the slow movement had a memorable intensity. De Toth clearly strengthened her reputation as an interpreter of Bartók.''
The Albuquerque Journal
Santa Fe Symphony appearance: "June De Toth played Bela Bartók's Third Piano Concerto forcefully, accurately, and easily, as if its difficulties were her delight! The balance of orchestra and piano, and the intricate ensemble playing were fine throughout.''
The New Mexican
Lisbon: "A magnificent evening. We've never heard a more perfect interpretation of Bartók's extremely difficult Sonata 1926. One has to be great to do it.''
Jornal Do Noticias
Madrid: "June de Toth's concert was the biggest musical event of the season. Marvelous nuances from pianissimo to fortissimo."
Carnegie Hall debut: "Her interpretations gave an impression of technical skill and experience, along with musicality of tone and dynamic discretion. Outspoken energy was limited to music which called for it, such as the vigorous episodes of the Bartók Sonata. She played the Chopin Nocturne in D-flat, Opus 2 7, No. 2 with engaging Iyricism of tone and atmosphere.''
The New York Herald Tribune
Belgrade: "Pianist June de Toth displayed a very strong musical personality. Her performance of the Brahms Second Piano Concerto was of the highest quality; a marvelous association of physical beauty and professional capacity."
Salzburg: "The Brahms Second Piano Concerto was interpreted magnificently, with ease and power which were incredible."
Santa Fe: ''She displayed imposing technique and profound musicianship in Bartók's Piano Sonata. Her performance was powerful and eloquent. Rounded tones emphasized the music's profound relationship to Liszt and other 19th century composers, without losing the dark fire and the alternative concept of tonal beauty that is the core of Bartók 's genius."
Santa Fe: "June De Toth has made a solid reputation here as a superb interpreter of the Romantics and of contemporary works. Her performance of Bartóks' Sonata 1926 was a model of clarity and conciseness coupled with a strong conviction that she was weighing each note perfectly for its place in the whole."
The New Mexican
Santa Fe: "Her Debussy-Bartók recital at St. John 's College was a revelation. From a purely virtuosic standpoint, her performance was staggering. A powerful musical personality, coupled with her prodigious technique, resulted in an exciting, satisfying evening''
The Santa Fe Reporter
San Francisco:''Her playing looks effortless, coming from the shoulders and arms. Her Debussy-Bartók recital left no doubt about her fluency and power. A prodigious technique.''
The Palo Alto Times
Paris: "She gave a clear vision of the eternity of the great Gods of music: Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Ravel, and Bartók. June De Toth possesses a marvelous technique. She made a clear distinction between the styles of Beethoven and Bartók.''
Le Guide Du Concert et du Disque