- Poetic Tone Pictures (13) for piano, B. 161 (Op. 85)
- Humoresques (8) for piano, B. 187 (Op. 101)
Unless one has encountered Dvorák's "Poetic Tone Pictures" or the "Eight Humoresques" in the course of piano studies, this CD will likely be musica incognita. Of course, everyone will recognize the much-arranged "Humoresque No. 7," but no other piece here has that instant recognizability. What makes Dvorák's piano works unfamiliar today is partly a matter of changing tastes -- this kind of sentimental music was out of fashion for much of the twentieth century; and Dvorák's keyboard pieces, tailored for amateur players, are seldom programmed by big-name virtuosos who prefer flashier fare. Yet there is much to like about these parlor pieces, not least their suggestions of colorful scenes -- "Twilight Way," "Toying," "Goblin's Dance," "Bacchanalia," and "At a Hero's Grave" are perhaps the most striking -- and any fair-minded listener may appreciate them as much as, say, Schumann's album leaves or Grieg's evocative miniatures. Pianist Julian Jacobson has a special affection for these neglected gems, and his performances on this 2004 release from Meridian offer convincing proof of his sincerity. Since few difficulties crop up, Jacobson has little opportunity to display pianistic wizardry; but this hardly matters, since the music charms rather than dazzles, and requires no prestidigitation. Meridian's sound is good, if a little distant and echoic.