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Intimate Studies / Lada Valesova

Release Date: 06/09/2009 
Label:  Avie   Catalog #: 2142  
Composer:  Pavel HaasLeos JanácekBohuslav MartinuJosef Suk
Performer:  Lada Valesova
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

INTIMATE STUDIES Lada Valešová (pn) AVIE 2142 (75:41)

JANÁ?EK In the Mist. Intimate Studies. HAAS Suite for Piano, op. 13. Allegro moderato. MARTIn? Film in Minature. Spring. SUK Spring

Read more /> Stylistically disparate though they are, all four composers on this album share a teacher-student connection that leads back to Dvo?ák. Suk was his son-in-law and favorite pupil. Janá?ek sent early works to Dvo?ák for criticism, a relationship that later blossomed into friendship. Janá?ek in turn taught and graduated Haas with high marks, the latter later developing a structural approach in composition similar to his teacher. Suk taught Martin? at the Prague Conservatory—though the theme breaks down a bit here, since the younger composer soon left for Paris and Albert Roussel’s class. Still, as even a casual hearing of many works by Martin? can attest, the influence of Suk’s lyricism repeatedly surfaces through the spiky and vigorous neo-Classicism over the years. Does that theme translate into a unified program, however, or does it remain an intellectual game? That’s best decided by each listener, though I personally feel Haas has little in common on an expressive level with the others.

That aside, this program does offer a chance to spotlight the talents of Lada Valešová, a concert pianist with awards from the International Smetana Piano Competition under her belt and a professor in the Vocal Studies Department at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In the latter capacity she has made a specialty of the Russian vocal repertoire, and acts as a vocal coach. Her interests in vocal music may provide her vocation, but on the evidence of this album she’s no slouch at the piano, either. Her playing is notable for its technical refinement. Right from the start, the opening movement of In the Mist sports both a very gradual crescendo in both hands that is managed along a smooth arc, and several evenly descending runs, tossed off at a relatively slow tempo (difficult to maintain) with a panache one is used to hearing from pianists of the French School. The Chopinesque rubato in the work’s third movement flows naturally, with a pleasing sense of phrasing and great attention to color. The fourth movement has massive, cleanly articulated chords.

So it goes throughout this disc: the balance of the hands in the Pastorale movement from the Suite by Haas, and the cantabile feeling that’s never lost in the motoric grotesquerie of the Postludium movement; the underplayed rhetoric that begins Suk’s Spring and the Lisztian theme that follows it, given such a warmly lyrical treatment; the deceptive ease with which the “Breeze” movement is tossed off—its barely sketched rhythm in the right hand, the left strumming an occasional chord. Immaculate playing and good musicianship are the hallmarks of this release. Just occasionally I found myself wishing that Valešová would be a bit more indulgent in shaping the line. I wanted more color in the left hand chromatic passages of the “Longing” movement from Suk’s Spring , and less grimness, more accent and snap from the “Tango” in Martin?’s Film in Miniature . The Gershwin element in the “Danza” from the Suite of Haas, too, could have benefited from a bit more vivacity, perhaps at the expense of the salon. But I will readily admit these are matters of personal taste rather than execution. Most of this music receives a sympathetic understanding from the pianist, who clearly feels it down to her bones. She is especially effective in the gentler material, where her unflappable technique is joined by an intimate warmth and an ability to say things of worth that can’t be rushed. These days that is in itself a cherishable gift.

With solid liner notes about the music by Vanda Prochazka and briefer remarks about the composers by Valešová herself, this is a welcome release. Let’s hope some label snaps her up to perform more solo works from her native land, and soon.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1. Suite for Piano, Op. 13 by Pavel Haas
Performer:  Lada Valesova (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; Brno, Czech Republic 
2. In the mists by Leos Janácek
Performer:  Lada Valesova (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; Brno, Czech Republic 
3. Film en miniature by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Lada Valesova (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; France 
4. Spring, Op. 22a by Josef Suk
Performer:  Lada Valesova (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902; Prague, Czech Republ 
5. Spring by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Lada Valesova (Piano)

Featured Sound Samples

In the Mists (Janácek): III. Andantino
Spring (Martinu)

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