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Jan Václav VOŘÍŠEK (1791-1825)
Complete Works for Piano - Volume 3
12 Rhapsodies, Op. 1
Biljana Urbam (piano)
rec. Vredenburg Leeuwenberg, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 14 March 2014
GRAND PIANO GP672 [75:17]

I have always thought of Jan Václav Voříšek as one of the great lost potentials of world music, sadly dying of tuberculosis at the age of 34, his meagre output showed the promise of greater things to come. He was something of a child prodigy: installed as the organist of his local church, ousting another family member, at the age of 9, and was performing Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Klavier from memory the following year - no mean feat. His father who was his first piano teacher, helped his son to win a scholarship to the University in Prague, where he studied philosophy. In 1813 Voříšek moved to Vienna, where although the main aim was to continue his studies, this time in Law, he longed to meet his musical hero, Beethoven, and present him with his 12 Rhapsodies Op. 1. This is something he duly did, and by all accounts Beethoven seemed to be impressed by the talent of the young man. Also whilst in Vienna, Voříšek became friends with Schubert and continued his musical education with Johann Nepomuk Hummel, although it is said that Hummel regarded him more as a colleague than as a pupil.

The music presented on this disc is a wonderful mix of the classical and early romantic styles prevalent in the day. There is certainly a nod to Beethoven to be found within its pages. You can hear why the great man would have been impressed by the skill of the younger man. However, the real highlight of the set must be the F Major Rhapsody, which is full of youthful exuberance, with the main theme being employed in the second movement Scherzo of his more popular B flat minor Sonata Op. 20 of 1820. An enjoyable collection of pieces.

As to the playing, unlike Steve Arloff, I must admit that I found Biljana Urbam’s playing on the first disc in this series (GP670) to be somewhat cold and unengaged, give me Radoslav Kvapil (Unicorn DKPCD9145; also Regis and Alto ALC6002) any day. However, her playing here is more measured and her tempos enable her to get the best out of this music. This has led me to have a reappraisal of the earlier disc and it has improved in my estimation, leading me to see this as an important survey of Voříšek’s piano music, and one to savour.

The notes and recorded sound are excellent, although the booklet and back cover can’t decide between Jan Václav and Jan Hugo Voříšek as the composer’s name; yes I know he sometimes used both.

This is volume 3 in the Voříšek/Urbam series. Volume 2 (GP671) offers the Eclogue in C major; Impromptu in B flat major; Impromptu in F major; Le Desir Op. 3; Le Plaisir Op. 4; Rondo in C major Op. 18; Rondo in G major Op. 18; Stammbuchblatt in A major and Variations in B flat major Op. 19.

Stuart Sillitoe

Track listing
No. 1 in C-Sharp Minor: Allegro [7:27]
No. 2 in E Major: Allegro [5:55]
No. 3 in A Minor: Allegro con brio [8:14]
No. 4 in F Major: Vivace [5:36]
No. 5 in F Minor: Allegro [4:19]
No. 6 in A-Flat Major: Allegretto ma agitato [7:01]
No. 7 in D Minor: Allegro furioso [5:41]
No. 8 in D Major: Veloce, ardito [4:28]
No. 9 in G Minor: Allegro appassionato [5:58]
No. 10 in C Major: Allegro risvegliato [6:22]
No. 11 in B Minor: Allegro brioso [7:41]
No. 12 in E-Flat Major: Allegro tempestoso [6:34]



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