From My Homeland: Czech Impressions
Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75 [16:17]
Larghetto from Sonatine Op. 100 [4:13]
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
Four Pieces, Op. 17 [18:38]
Leos JANÁCEK (1854-1928)
Violin Sonata [18:34]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Three Arabesques from H.201 [7:36]
Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)
From My Homeland [9:50]
Werner von Schnitzler (violin)
Cosmin Boeru (piano)
rec. 22-25 June, 2015, Immanuelskirche, Wuppertal, Germany
ARS PRODUKTION SACD ARS38184 [75:08]
Don’t feel misled by the title of this disc. “From My Homeland” is the name of a work by Smetana, which arrives at the end of this satisfying recital of Czech chamber music. Bohemia is not, however, the homeland of the artists themselves; violinist Werner von Schnitzler, pictured on the cover right next to the title, is from Cologne, and pianist Cosmin Boeru is Romanian-born and now teaching in, again, Cologne.
With that caveat out of the way, we can happily report a very good violin recital, arranged chronologically from Dvorák to Martinů and then folding backwards to Smetana. Many listeners will know the appeal of most of this music, but I’ll single out some of the less commonly-heard works for a few words of description. Josef Suk, Dvorák’s star student and son-in-law, wrote a set of four pieces for violin and piano in 1887, and the suite finds its young composer looking ahead in time and technique. The final movement, especially, is highly chromatic in its dizzying perpetual motion. Suk himself was a good violinist, a fact attested to by his excellent Fantasy in G minor for violin and orchestra. The excerpted three Arabesques by Bohuslav Martinu, from a set of seven composed for cello and piano as well as this version for violin and piano, come from 1931, and more specifically from the composer’s bubbly, jovial side. A set of cheery, well-crafted miniatures, these pieces could serve as good encores. The Dvorák and Smetana works are, not surprisingly, notable for their long, intimate, singing melodies. Werner von Schnitzler has a way with them on his violin: he doesn’t bring much fire or old-school romanticism to his playing, a la Gil Shaham or James Ehnes, but has an appealing tone and communicates simply and directly. I enjoyed his earnestness. Boeru is an able accompanist throughout.
This disc is a hybrid SACD, which is becoming a rarer format these days. Though not exactly essential, it’s a very nice way to spend an hour, and a good survey of Czech music for violin which manages to cover nearly every major Bohemian composer. Maybe pair the CD with a relaxing afternoon in the study, a nice long book, a mug of tea, and, come springtime, the window cracked slightly open. That sounds just about perfect.