Regis Czech Piano Anthology (4 CDs in
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)
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
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
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.
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.