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Vítězslava KAPRÁLOVÁ (1915–1940)
Complete Piano Music
Sonata Appassionata, Op. 6 (1933) [18:45]
Three Piano Pieces, Op. 9 (two excerpts) (1935) [6:23]
Grotesque Passacaglia (1935) [2:34]
Five Piano Compositions (1931-32) [13:07]
Dubnová preludia, op. 13 (April Preludes) (1937) [9:06]
Variations sur le Carillon de l’Église St-Étienne-du-Mont, op. 16 (1938) [7:59]
Dance For Piano (1940, unpublished, reconstructed by Giorgio Koukl) * [3:11]
Dvě Kytičky (Two Bouquets of Flower) (1935) * [1:36]
Písnička (little song) (1936) [1:18]
Ostinato fox (1937) * [1:06]
Slavnostní fanfára (festive fanfare) (1940) * [00:24]
Giorgio Koukl (piano)
* premičre recording
rec. Conservatorio Lugano, Switzerland, Jan-March 2016.
GRAND PIANO GP708 [65:27]

It is good to see pianists of the stature of Giorgio Koukl putting out to largely uncharted waters. Koukl has previously been a prolific advocate of Martinu (piano music, songs, piano concertos) but has also added Lourié, Tcherepnin and Le Flem to his illustrious credentials. He studied with Nikita Magalov, Jacques Février, Stanislaus Neuhaus and Rudolf Firkušný. The results in this first account of Kaprálová's complete piano music are stirringly impressive; not that this composer is a completely unknown quantity. Her music has been promoted with inspiring strength by the Vítězslava Kaprálová Society. Two record labels, Studio Matous and Supraphon, have also weighed in.

The Sonata Appassionata is unusually structured: a Maestoso Appassionato followed by a Theme and six Variations. It wears its grand manner with easy oceanic grandeur and soon moves on, in the variations, to a sort of "May Morning" innocence and lightness of heart. The Dance for piano, which dates like the Festive Fanfare, from the year of Kaprálová's death at the age of 25, was reconstructed by Koukl. It is sturdy, unruly and redolent of Foulds' April England and Essays in the Modes. The Festive Fanfare is a small shard but establishes its prepossessing mood of confidence in its span of 24 seconds. The Five Compositions of 1931-32 might have evolved from Macdowell's Woodland Sketches but only after the ideas have been refracted through three transformational decades of musical development and then nostalgically reflected back. An example is the fragrant and kindly Tempo di Menuetto which completely avoids pastiche. Impressionism arches over the liquid tones of the second of the Dubnovia Preludia - previously recorded by Jaroslav Smýkal, on Studio Matous. The Carillon Variations were admired by Martinu and you can see why. It shows the strongest advance in her style and early on once or twice even sounds a little like Martinu. All of the music here, which dates from the 1930s, has a lofty romantic complexity that avoids harshness or extreme dissonance. There are dissonances but they are subtle - piquant rather than bleak. Despite the complexity there is no sense of obfuscation. Communication is what the composer clearly intended and achieves. The music - always full of character and radiating maturity - will speak without undue tribulation to anyone who enjoys the piano music of John Ireland, Herbert Howells, William Baines or Arnold Bax.

The valuable booklet note in English and French is an exemplar of highly competent design: unfussy font, sensible line-spacing and black on a white ground. The author is Karla Hartl of the Kaprálová Society. Hartl has worked and continues to work tirelessly for Kaprálová's deserving music.

Grand Piano have chosen well again with the technical and artistic aspects immaculately handled.

Rob Barnett



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