Part 2: Night Music, The Chase
I had never heard of Erzsébet Tusa before coming across these videos. Considering how many fine interpreters of Bela Bartok's music I've listened to and studied, how she could have escaped notice makes me wonder if her gender didn't have something to do with that. The notes to the videos quotes Bartok's widow, Ditta Pásztory as saying: "Erzsébet Tusa is a splendid pianist: she interprets the compositions of Béla Bartók, my husband, marvelously." Considering that Ditta Pásztory was one of Bela Bartok's students, for whom he composed several of his greatest piano pieces, the Third Concerto, the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (as well as the concert version of that) and who recorded the chamber version of that in an amazing performance with her husband, she was probably the second most credible person to deliver that compliment.
Listening to these while going through the score, she doesn't seem to violate any of the written instructions while also finding things in it that I certainly never noticed in more than thirty years of familiarity with the music, I studied it while I was in college, though I never performed it. Her playing in the Night Music, the heart of the suite, is the nearest imaginable musical evocation of being in the middle of the country, away from light pollution, with the random sounds and conversation of night creatures mixed with human feeling. Or at least as near as I could imagine while I was hearing her play it the first time.
It makes you wonder how many other great interpreters of piano music there are as the world concentrates on the big name virtuosos, most of whom couldn't play at her level on the best day of their career. The difference is in the submersion of ego into the intentions of the composer and the wider experience that is only possible when you don't put yourself first.