Eduard Nápravník (1839-1916)
Piano Quartet in A minor, Op 42 (1882)
Violin Sonata in G major, Op 52 (1890)
Oliver Triendl (piano)
Nina Karmon (violin)
Diyang Mei (viola)
Justus Grimm (cello)
rec. 2020, Musiksaal der Kongresshalle, Nurenberg
CPO 555405-2 
For those unfamiliar with the name Eduard Nápravník, he was a Czech conductor and composer. Born in Býšť in 1839, he was orphaned in 1853 at the age of 14. As a youngster he played the organ at Pardubice Cathedral. A year later he enrolled at the Prague Organ School, taking lessons from Johann Friedrich Kittl, director of the Prague Conservatory. He also took piano tuition from Peter Maydl at the Maydl Institute, teaching there himself from 1856-1861. He then settled in Russia, where he remained for the rest of his life. He played a leading role in the musical life of the country, eventually becoming principal conductor of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. There he gave the premieres of operas by Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. He died in Petrograd in 1916. Owing to his busy schedules, composing remained something of a sideline. Having said that, he left behind some 200 works, 77 with opus numbers. His oeuvre consists of four operas, four symphonies, one piano concerto and numerous chamber works.
The Piano Quartet was penned in 1882 and published a year later. Although an unreleased Czech radio broadcast by the Kocian Quartet with pianist Valery Grokhovsky exists, this is its first studio recording. Nápravník adheres to the well-worn four movement classical form, with a scherzo positioned second. The work demonstrates an overall orchestral build. The opening movement is shameless heart-on-sleeve exuberance through and through. Yet, despite the full-blown Romanticism, there are times when a certain melancholic vein rears its head. The piano part sounds very virtuosic, and all the instruments are on full throttle throughout. The Scherzo enters at a perilous full pelt. There’s a contrasting lyrical section, before the dizzying bustle returns. The slow movement, a Marcia funebre, is glorious, with the players achieving some luminous, diaphanous sonorities, suffused with a hazy radiance. A boisterous finale, with scope for all to play their hearts out, ends the work with upbeat elation.
Similarly orchestral in conception the Violin Sonata is big-boned and hewn from similar rock as the Piano Quartet. Cast in four movements, it was written in 1890 and premiered the following year. It’s had a previous outing on the Toccata label (review). The first movement creeps in stealthily before opening out and revealing its true ebullient colours. The Scherzo, which follows, is an absolute delight with its high-spirited whimsy, with Nina Karmon bringing some buoyant articulation into play to depict the dance elements. The Andantino doloroso reminisces with wistful backward glances. An energetic finale alternates between forceful declamation and melodic largesse.
The players obviously have great love for this music and perform with infectious energy, fire and commitment. The CPO engineers have fulsomely captured them in well-balanced and plush, deep-pile sound. The superb production is bolstered by exceptionally thorough documentation in German and English. This rare repertoire is worth becoming acquainted with and getting your teeth into.
Published: November 23, 2022