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Jan Václav VOŘÍŠEK (1791-1825)
Six Impromptus, op.7 (c.1820): no.1 in C (Allegro) [4.36], no.2 in C (Allegro moderato) [4.25], no.3 in D (Allegretto) [4.41], no.4 in A (Allegretto) [6.36], no.5 in E (Allegretto) [9.01], no.6 in B (Allegretto) [8.02]
Fantasie, op.12 (Andante – allegro con brio) [11.06]
Variations in B flat, op.19 (1824-5) [9.11]
Piano sonata in B flat minor, op.20 (1820) [14.05]
Radoslav Kvapil (piano)
rec. Unicorn-Kanchana at the Rudolfinum Studio, 19 June 1993. DDD.
REGIS RRC 1224 [71.56]

Alternative releases:
Regis Czech Piano Anthology (4 CDs in each volume)
volume 1 (RRC 4005): Kvapil plays Dvořák, Janáček, Smetana and Suk
volume 2 (RRC 4006): Kvapil plays Fibich, Martinů, more Smetana and this disc
Supraphon (SU37472): Kvapil plays Voříšek complete piano works (3 CDs)

Jan Václav Voříšek may now be a name consigned to the sidelines of music history as far as the general listener is concerned. However within the Czech Republic his music still has a reasonable following. This was the case during his life and immediately following his death too – admired by Beethoven and Schubert, no less. Indeed, he held the post of conductor of the Gesellschaft für Musikfreunde in Vienna and that of a court organist there. Compositionally one can hear - without too much effort - Voříšek’s Impromptus as a model for Schubert’s own.

Throughout all the works here Voříšek’s natural gift for a catchy melody is on display. Thanks to the fact that oftentimes they recur during the course of a work, they can work their way into your musical consciousness, but not really for the long term.

The Impromptus are lively, atmospheric and almost have a true improvisatory feel about them. They display a confidence within their composer of his gifts – though they remain free of any nationalistic sentiments. Kvapil’s performance - on a well recorded piano - is full of fervour and enthusiasm for each of the six. My only regret was that so many of them are marked Allegretto: a greater variety in the tempi would have given each more individuality within the set.

The Fantasie, op.12, cast in two parts, is something of a Janus-faced work. Here one senses perhaps the composer’s acquaintance with baroque organ music coming through in the writing. Yet also one can hear a voice ahead of its time perhaps anticipating the likes of Chopin and Schumann. The op. 19 Variations have much in common with Mozart’s compositions in the genre, written as they were for teaching purposes or for provincial amateur pianists to tackle. To it all Kvapil brings a fluency and understanding of approach that never makes the pieces into something more than they are.

Undoubtedly the major work on this disc is the piano sonata in B flat minor, op.20. It falls squarely under Beethoven’s influence and the course of its three movements contains much material that contrasts and links one another thematically. Kvapil delivers a forthright performance full of nuance but also one that impresses through fluency of idiom. I was also conscious of the mark this work in particular might have left on other Bohemian composers of the era.

As the list of alternatives above indicates, Kvapil has an impressive range of Czech piano music represented on CD. If Voříšek is what you are after, you can get this release as part of the Regis anthology but the choice is complicated by Supraphon’s three-disc offering of earlier recordings. I suspect that many will opt for some or all of Regis’s offering – preferring a broader spread of composers, though this should not prevent the enthusiastic from dipping more than a toe into Voříšek’s output with Supraphon. Whatever your decision, on current evidence Kvapil is an able guide to this modest yet not unrewarding composer whose music falls easily on the ear.

Evan Dickerson



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