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Martina Bačová - Elegant Provocation

Elegy for violin and piano (1982) [8:40]
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1928)
Violin Sonata (1921) [16:07]
George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Violin Sonata No.2 in F minor Op.6 (1899) [22:59]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Romanian Folk Dances arranged by Zoltan Székely (published 1920) [5:57]
Martina Bačová (violin)
Alexandr Starý (piano)
rec. December 2008, Kulturní dům Teplice
ARCO DIVA UP 0107-2 131 [55:05]

Experience Classicsonline

The violinist’s name is boldly highlit and underneath it the putative title of the disc - elegant provocation in sexy lower case red. Martina Bačová stands on a rooftop looking sexy. There’s an even sexier picture inside but it’s not of her, though there is one, and she is sexy: it’s of a bright yellow TQM Transport 40 ton lorry. They’re backing the disc and well done to them. Haulage companies don’t often do this kind of thing, but it was a bit of a shock nevertheless.

All right, sexy stuff out of the way. This is a fine recital by a young Czech violinist and her excellent piano colleague Alexandr Starý. It wears, if I can say so, the shadowplay of the repertoire of her erstwhile teacher Ivan Ženatý. She’s not the first Czech player, for example, to programme the Mácha Elegy and the Bartók Romanian Folk Dances on disc, because Ženatý did it with his colleague Jaroslav Kolář back in 1986 on Panton 7105322. The Mácha was written for Nora Grumliková. It’s a moving work, which invites expressive gestures. Ženatý provides the more sweeping phraseology and Bačová the more classically conceived reading. She plays the faster section in this sectional work with strong assurance and the piano part is confidently despatched - especially its more brooding, tolling aspects.

As noted before Ženatý has recorded the Romanian Dances as well. He tends to be more capricious and to characterise just that bit more forcefully. Her tone is slightly less focused and she tends to be a touch more reserved. She has to yield to him in the maintenance of tonal body of sound in No.III, the Andante.

Ženatý has also recorded the Janáček but I’ve yet to hear the performance. In any case while it may be instructive it’s probably unfair to keep on about him in the context of Bačová’s playing. Her performance of the sonata is astutely phrased and paced. The opening is strong, quite brisk but with subtle use of rubato. It’s not as tonally expressive as the classic Suk-Panenka traversal and the Bačová-Starý duo doesn’t see it as romantically as the older pairing. Here we find the more piecemeal stresses, the mosaic like cells are more deliberately bitty. The modernity of the piano writing is certainly stressed, and the Janus faced quality of the sonata is observed as well. If, in the end, I find that Suk integrates the emotive gestures whilst Bačová tends rather more to impose them, it doesn’t lessen the quality of this newcomer.

Do violinists tend to pass over Enescu’s F minor sonata because the Third is so powerful and totemic a work? If so they’re missing out on the Fauréan beauties of the earlier work. The composer was recorded in it twice - once with Lipatti - but the warmly moulded playing here is in such fine sound, and the performance is so attractive, that we can leave aside such ‘marker’ recordings for now.

A fine conspectus then, played with assurance and style, and well recorded into the bargain.

Jonathan Woolf

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