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Brilliant Classics

Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1906)
Complete Works For Piano Duet: Slavonic Dances – Op. 46 (1878) [35'07]; Op. 72 (1886) [34'10]; Legends, Op. 59 (1881) [37'34]; From the Bohemian Forest, Op. 68 (1884) [25'51]
Ingryd Thorson; Julian Thurber (piano duet).
Rec. Ski Church Hall, Oslo, Norway, in December 1989 and January 1990. DDD
From Olympia originals.
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92274 [69:17 + 63:25]



A real bargain. Thorson and Thurber play these works with evident affection, great sense of ensemble, clean articulation and with not a small amount of fun along the way. One half of the duo, Thorson, even provides the excellent accompanying notes.

Disc 1 contains the well-known stuff. Yet Thorson and Thurber inject a sense of discovery to their reading of the two sets of Slavonic Dances that may make you hear the music's freshness anew. Neither does one miss the colours of the orchestral version – it all just sounds so right.

The recording is a good one, with a nice amount of depth. The players are able to convey all the joy of the first dance: a furiant; all of the various types of Czech dance are identified on the back of the box for you. Thorson's sparkling right-hand is one of many sources of joy. Yet the players can do melancholy well, too - the very next dance from Op. 46, a Dumka in E minor - and it is perhaps in the slower portions that one is most aware of their near-telepathic rapport.

The list of felicitous touches is endless. Try the light, gorgeous touch of No. 3 (Sousedka), or the sweet affection of No. 6 with its more manic contrasts! Perhaps a little more charm in No. 4 could have been achieved? 

One of the things that makes Thorson and Thurber's exploration of this familiar territory so gripping is their aliveness to the shadier, more mysterious moments. The implied tragedy of Op. 72 No. 5 or the exploratory nature (in context) of No. 4 offer fine examples of this.

The second disc offers rich rewards. Both the Legends and From the Bohemian Forests deserve far more airings than they actually receive. The Legends immediately move towards more intimate realms – this is less 'public' music, on a completely different canvas. Again Thorson and Thurber are superbly responsive – try the deep, ruminative second Legend  or the warmth of the fourth. The composer's mind wanders even further afield in From the Bohemian Forests, a sequence of six titled movements. The sequence is divisible into two sets of three – hence the third and sixth movements are the fastest ones. There is no doubting Thorson and Thurber's sense of being at home in this work, either. Further, Dvořák seems especially at home here, his invention flowing freely. Seemingly improvised passages continually surprise and fascinate.

Very strongly recommended, then.

Colin Clarke



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