From My Homeland: Czech Impressions Anton DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Vier Romantische Stücke op.75, [16:09]
Sonatina op. 100:
Larghetto [4.10] Josef SUK (1874–1935)
Vier Stücke op.17, [18:13] Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1928)
Violin Sonata [18:24] Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Seven Arabesques, H. 201:
Poco Allegro [1.51];
Allegro [2.27] Bedřich SMETANA (1824-1884) Aus der Heimat [9:50]
Werner von Schnitzler (violin) Cosmin Boeru (piano)
rec. Immanuelskirche, Wuppertal, 22-25 June 2015. ARS PRODUKTION ARS38184 SACD [75.08]
As an introduction to the chamber music of what was once Czechoslovakia or Bohemia
- or whatever nomenclature one might choose – this disc would be difficult to better. For most people, the five composers represented would be the first choices to select, though it can be too easy to overlook others, such as Fibich or Novák. The works here are not only representative of Czech culture, each is also very distinctive and valuable in its own right.
Perhaps the most instantly appealing are the four romantic pieces by Dvořák which open the programme. Here they are charmingly and affectingly played. From the beginning, one is aware of the care and sensitivity of both artists: the music is immediately arresting.
The Suk pieces are perhaps a little more lightweight, but have a charm of their own. With Janáček we are into sterner territory. This sonata was written against the background of the arrival of Russian troops in Moravia. Janáček welcomed their victories over the Austrian army, but the long gestation of the piece, from 1913 to 1922, was affected by events during that period, as the composer himself indicated. But he did not seem to have a very high opinion of the work. If this was truly his opinion, he was mistaken. It is very characteristically Janáček, with changes of mood and a conversational quality.
I am a great lover of the music of Martinů, so was disappointed that only three of the seven Arabesques made their way into the programme, especially given the superb performances of the three pieces, each very different from the other, which are here. Something similar might be said of the single movement from the Dvořák Sonatina, a most affecting piece. The Smetana pieces which conclude the programme are each delightful.
Neither player was familiar to me, but on this evidence, I would love to hear them again. The booklet is in both English and German, and thorough and informative. The SACD recording is spacious, with plenty of airaround the performances.