Janácek: Piano Music, Vol. 2

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Robert Cummings
Leos Janacek 1854-1928 is not known for his piano music. The extraordinary operas he wrote in the last half of his career, the "Sinfonietta" and "Taras Bulba" have established his reputation as one of the greatest Czech composers. Part of the reason for the neglect of his keyboard output is its sparsity, of course; too, Czech composers, unlike their counterparts in Germany and Russia, have never established a tradition in this corner of the repertory. Thus their productions have failed to attract most pianists, who, it must be observed, are reluctant to explore the environs beyond the beaten path. But most of Janacek's piano compositions are worthwhile and fully deserve...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Robert Cummings
Leos Janacek 1854-1928 is not known for his piano music. The extraordinary operas he wrote in the last half of his career, the "Sinfonietta" and "Taras Bulba" have established his reputation as one of the greatest Czech composers. Part of the reason for the neglect of his keyboard output is its sparsity, of course; too, Czech composers, unlike their counterparts in Germany and Russia, have never established a tradition in this corner of the repertory. Thus their productions have failed to attract most pianists, who, it must be observed, are reluctant to explore the environs beyond the beaten path. But most of Janacek's piano compositions are worthwhile and fully deserve greater attention. "Variations for Zdenka," an early Brahms-flavored work, is charming, the perfect piece to stump friends with in a "guess the composer" quiz. It offers an attractive, stately theme with seven innovative variations. "A Recollection" is an interesting short work, somewhat impressionistic, with Debussy coming to mind in some of the harmonies. The five pieces comprising "Music for Exercise Gymnastique" are folk-tinged concoctions of humor and spice, often conjuring up images of obese, weight-minded people working out to the bombastic and often elephantine thumping rhythms of the dance-like music. "In the Mist" is a work expressing anguish and suffering, but always with an eloquence that bespeaks a man insistent that musical decorum must prevail, that tears must be held back. It's a work of depth and considerable substance. Pianist Thomas Hlawatsch includes the original finale here, which, oddly enough, comes before the complete work on this disc. It's an interesting piece, but not on the level of its eventual successor. The "Concertino," mislabeled on the CD's back cover as being for "Piano, Two Violins, Viola, Clarinet and Horn," leaving out the bassoon though mentioning the bassoonist's name in the credits, is a curious work of arresting character. The first movement features piano and horn only, the second piano and clarinet, the third piano, strings, clarinet, and horn, and the fourth uses all the instruments. Hlawatsch takes an often impressionistic view of these works, where Mikhail Rudy's EMI recording, in "In the Mist," "Three Moravian Dances," and "A Recollection" as well as in other works not on the present Naxos disc, infuses the music with drama and pointed thrust. Not that Hlawatsch is overly gentle in his subtle approach -- indeed, he can impart power and muscle, too, where called for: try the ending of the "Concertino" track 13, 4:00. In this chamber work, the wind and string players also perform admirably throughout. At Naxos' budget price, he's an irrestible bargain. Excellent sound and informative notes.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/19/1996
  • Label: Naxos
  • UPC: 730099458726
  • Catalog Number: 8553587
  • Sales rank: 335,829

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Thomas Hlawatsch Primary Artist
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