Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Slavonic Dances 1st series Op.46 B78 (1878) [32:35]
Slavonic Dances 2nd series Op.72 B145 (1886) [31:38]
Kristina Krkavcová and Martin Kasík (piano)
rec. January-February 2004, Liechtenstein Palace, Prague
ARCO DIVA UP 0067-2 131 [65:09]
Dvorák looked to the precedent of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances when the Berlin publisher Simrock invited the Czech composer to write a book of Slavonic Dances. Indeed it was the obvious place to look, something Fritz Simrock had himself suggested in his invitation. Simrock asked for something ‘light, but not too light, but brilliant, flashy, with shifting moods and colours’. Given the huge popularity and near-ubiquity of the orchestrated versions of both Hungarian and Slavonic Dances, it’s easy to overlook the fact that both works were originally written for piano, four-hands.
Orchestration of the piano originals followed soon afterwards, and it’s in this form that we usually hear the Dances. However there have always a few recordings of the original piano versions in the catalogue. Those with longish memories will remember the (unlikely seeming?) Brendel and Klien Turnabout LP. And they were followed by the Vlastimil Lejsek and Vera Lejsková Supraphon LP in the mid 1970s and by the Kontarsky brothers on DG, amongst others. But even more recently you could choose between the Labčque sisters on Philips, the Noke-Krizos duo on Hyperion and Christian Kohnno and Silke-Thora Matthies on Naxos. A really fine addition to the discography, and a particular favourite of mine, came from the Prague Piano Duo on Praga 250151 – highly recommended for its vitality.
Amongst these duos the Arco Diva pairing of Kristina Krkavcová and Martin Kasík impresses. They offer resilient rhythms and charm. This is especially so in the second of the Op.46 set with a charmingly played coda. There’s plenty of clarity in the Poco allegro [No.3] of the same set, and fine ensemble. The vitality and measured ebullience of No.5 is palpable, and they find a just balance between extroversion and more reflective intimacies in the first of the Op.72 set. This is a recurring quality, one that also reappears in the fourth of the later set – amidst the grazioso there is also time to pause. The Presto [No.15 – the seventh of Op.72] has delightful animation.
Nicely recorded, these performances are both enjoyable and sympathetic. If I marginally prefer the Prague duo on Praga, I should add that you won’t go far wrong with this Arco Diva.
Jonathan Woolf
These performances are both enjoyable and sympathetic,