135 Years of Czech Composers Bedřich SMETANA(1824-1884)
From My Homeland, for violin and piano [11:32] Antonín DVOŘÁK(1841-1904)
Four Romantic Pieces, for violin and piano, op.75 [12:59]
Sonatina in G, for violin and piano, op.100 [19:58] Zdenĕk FIBICH(1850-1900)
Poem, for violin and piano (arr. Jan Kubelik) [2:12] Ottokar NOVÁČEK(1866-1900)
Perpetuum Mobile, for violin and piano [3:08] Erwin SCHULHOFF(1894-1942)
Sonata, for solo violin [11:10] Leoš JANÁČEK(1854-1928)
Sonata, for violin and piano [18:01] Bohuslav MARTINŮ(1890-1959)
Five Madrigal Stanzas, for violin and piano [11:11] Josef SUK(1874-1935)
Four Pieces, for violin and piano, op.17 [17:24]
Yvonne Smeulers (violin)
Sander Sittig (piano)
rec. Westvest 90 Church, Schiedam, The Netherlands. No dates given
[49:49 + 57:46]
Dutch label Quintone originally released this attractively
packaged set in 2007. At a total running time of 108 minutes,
this is more a disc-and-a-half than a true double, but the retail
price is still fairly hefty. On the other hand, the high standard
of the music-making by Dutch violinist Yvonne Smeulers and her
long-time pianist Sander Sittig constitutes considerable compensation.
Add to that the broad appeal of the fairly easy-going music
that has been selected for their extended recital, and the question
of the price/timing ratio recedes somewhat.
The programme provides a varied, entertaining mix of the short
and long, light and dark, popular and relatively neglected.
Anyone drawn initially by the more mellifluously mainstream
items on CD 1 is likely to be pleasantly surprised by the works
on CD 2, which, though more 'hardcore', with heavier, important
works by Janáček and Suk, still provides an hour's
worth of melodious tonal music, not least the revealing items
by Schulhoff and Martinů.
The album title is a trifle misleading: the "135" refers to
the number of years between the birth of the first and the death
of the last featured composer. In fact, all wrote at least some
music that is more or less Romantic in sound. Janáček
could have known, and quite likely did know, all of them as
professional musicians. It may also be pointed out here that
there is no special requirement to love Czech music - only Smetana
and, intermittently, Janáček are really in nationalist
or folkloric mode here.
Sander Sittig looks rather stern in his booklet photo, but his
playing reveals a good deal of lightness and warmth. In fairness,
though, he does have less to do than Smeulers. Her 1785 Guadagnini
violin has an agreeable middle tone. Lyrical and thoughtful,
Smeulers is persuasive throughout, and especially impressive
in Schulhoff's scintillating Solo Sonata, the first movement
of which feels surprisingly like a hoe-down!
Sound quality is very good. The product barely advertises its
SACD status - the only pointers are the distinctive symbol and
tiny print on the disc itself. It does not specify at all that
it is a 'Hybrid' - this time the golden sheen of the playing
surface provides the clue. Unusually, there is no straight stereo
for the SACD layer, only multichannel. The standard CD layer
does play in stereo.
The Westvest 90 church at Schiedam may have a strange name,
but its ambience is airy and, somehow, almost reverberation-free.
The CD case is a foldout "digipak triptych". The glossy booklet
slides in behind the front cover. Unfortunately the only track
listing is on the back cover of the digipak, which means the
listener must keep that to hand for reference. The Dutch-English-French-German
notes, however, are fairly informative and well translated.
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