As a breed, Hungarian pianists are often so fiercely individual that the best of them project a distinctive sound world all their own.
So it was with Dénes Várjon, whose local debut Thursday at the American Philosophical Society was a configuration of repertoire whose components weren't unknown but converged into an overall experience that went to harrowing places.
The key piece at this Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert was Bartok's early-period, little-known Two Elegies, one of his most unfiltered expressionistic works, written after the demise of his relationship with violinist Stefi Geyer. In contrast to the lyric sweetness of the Violin Concerto No. 1 that he wrote for her, his elegies were clearly written in the abyss, starting with a baldly stated, monophonic pronouncement before the piece dives into thickets of near-Viennese dissonances, with periodic appearances by a cimbalom on the verge of a nervous breakdown, played by Várjon with a complete rejection of prettiness.