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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby




Jaroslav JEŽEK (1906-1942)
Bugatti Step

Three Policemen Step (1929) [3:34]
Isabel Valse [4:41]
Grande Valse Brillante (1939) [4:45]
Etude (1933) [4:10]
Petite Suite (1928) [11:15]
Rhapsody (1938) [8:25]
Bagatelles (1933) [14:39]
Dance of the Marionette (1933) [1:44]
Spring Wind – Waltz [4:47]
Bugatti Step (1931) [2:41]
Tomáš Víšek (piano)
rec. on Ježek’s own piano in the Jaroslav Ježek Memorial Blue Room, Prague February and April 2006

STUDIO MATOUS MK 0055-2 131 [61:02]

 

Tomáš Víšek has recorded him before but here we have a total delight – a whole disc of Ježek’s piano music. Not only this but the recital was recorded on the composer’s own piano in the Ježek Memorial Blue Room in Prague. A booklet photograph shows the pianist in action in the well named Blue Room in what I assume was a February session – he’s wearing a particularly chunky jumper.

One of the major influences on Ježek was Zez Confrey as one can hear during the vivacious course of the Czech’s greatest international hit, Bugatti Step. This is the piece that gives the disc its title and was written for the female racing driver Eliška Junková, who drove a Bugatti and became something of a Czech heroine. Víšek plays it with immense brio and Confrey-inspired pep. In his own performance on MDG 613 1158-2 the German pianist Steffen Schleiermacher sounds positively Brucknerian heard alongside the infectious brio of the Czech player.

But then Víšek is a master of this repertoire and allied ones too – I will be reviewing the jazz and dance based miniatures by Hába and Schulhoff and they all benefit from Víšek’s eloquence and perception. Try the sap quotient of the 1929 Three Policemen Step with its offbeat bite. Or the limpid moments in the Isabel Valse and its allied dance band cadences. True the Grande valse brillante is rather generic and nor is the Etude as harmonically elusive as similarly titled works by Schulhoff. But the Petite Suite is a real pleasure – five brief movements each exemplifying a particular facet of the composer’s capricious wit; Bach, French-crepuscular, the Confrey-Billy Mayerl axis – though I’m not sure how much Mayerl he would have heard by 1928 – and so on.

The Rapsodie has rhythmic invention as well as clearly Czech outlines and is the single longest piece here. The Bagatelles fuse a ragtime-polka, a compact funeral march, a notturno and much else in their brief stay. Steffen Schleiermacher essays them in the disc already noted but his playing lacks the idiomatic freshness and fluency of Víšek’s.

The Ježek piano does have rather a noisy action but is well recorded. This pianist is making a habit of composer-piano discs; I reviewed him playing Suk’s Bösendorfer No.15421 on Arco Diva UP 0025-2 131 and long may he continue. Gratitude also to Šimon Matoušek, whose discs are always questing and always exciting.


Jonathan Woolf



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