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
QUINTONE Q07001/2 SACD [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
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.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Smeulers is persuasive, lyrical and thoughtful throughout.