Long in need of a champion capable of fully communicating their distinctive and multifarious personalities, Bartók’s piano concertos may have found one in this thrilling collaboration between Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s San Francisco Symphony.

Steeped in all-things Hungarian, Aimard approaches these three strikingly different pieces – each bristling with not inconsiderable challenges of their own – with all the conviction of a true believer in what he describes as their “linguistically singular music”.

Salonen, too, is an avid proselytiser for Bartók, having previously recorded the concertos with Yefim Bronfman and the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Sony back in 1995. That long association pays one dividend after another here with the San Francisco ensemble sounding noticeably leaner and evincing more bite than during their stewardship by Salonen’s predecessor, Michael Tilson Thomas. Particularly satisfying is the shared determination to cast off the inherited mahogany-dark tenor and associated pugnacious tropes that have bedevilled Bartók’s piano concertos. The result is like hearing, revealingly, all three anew.

Composed in 1926, Bartók himself considered the First Concerto to be “difficult for audience and orchestra alike”. Certainly, its...