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Smetana: Complete Piano Works Vol 3 / Cechova


Release Date: 06/26/2007 
Label:  Supraphon   Catalog #: 3843   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  Jitka Cechova
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a tremendous introduction to the piano music of Smetana.

This is a tremendous introduction to the piano music of Smetana. Much of Smetana's music remains little known outside his native territory of the Czech Republic; I include in this statement many of the operas – except, of course, Bartered Bride. Ivan Moravec has been known to encore some of Smetana's solo piano music, as indeed he did at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall in December 2002. But it is surely a safe bet that this repertoire has remained hidden even to more seasoned collectors.

The two sets of Czech Dances presented here differ in length and manner of presentation. The first set comprises four polkas and lasts just over 12 minutes,
Read more while the second set presents a mix of mainly titled pieces. The first polka of the 1877 set is cast in F sharp minor and brings to mind a Chopin Mazurka in its veiled melancholy, a mood continued by the second (A minor). The last two polkas are in major mode, though. The third (F major) is infectiously happy and bright, a mood highlighted by ?echová's laughing staccati. Some of the writing in the fourth (B flat major) is decidedly tricky, not to say awkward, yet ?echová takes it all in her stride.

The opening Furiant of the second set of Czech Dances immediately takes us into a different world. It speaks of weightier matters - reflected in its length of 5:37. In fact the musical expression of his set probes decidedly deeper, despite the seemingly flippant nature of movement titles ('The Oats', 'Stamping Dance'). ?echová successfully projects significant national pride into the first dance (a Furiant) of the second series. Throughout she plays with the utmost sensitivity. Her emotional repertoire includes humour - the delightful eighth movement, 'The Bear' - and tenderenss - the middle section of 'Little Onion' and 'The Lancer'. The angularity and overt virtuosity of 'Stamping Dance' is expertly rendered here, as is the charming simplicity of 'The Astride Dance', with its superb gradual ritardando before it fades out of earshot. The final 'Jump Dance' is a helter-skelter ride, and a fitting end to a most enjoyable sequence of character pieces.

The final four pieces on the disc cover the final years of Smetana's life. The Bettina Polka is a revision of a sketch dating from 1859 and is a slight piece - ideal for use as an encore - while The Peasant Woman (another polka) was originally an orchestral piece of celebratory nature. ?echová retains its extrovert nature.

At 55 seconds the Andante in F minor hardly has time to make its mark. It is a mere album leaf, a fragment laden with an echt-F minorisch burden that expires gracefully. Finally comes, the G minor Romance, Smetana's last work for piano, which provides a thought-provoking end to this magnificent disc.

Bravo to Supraphon for including in its technical specifications for this disc the name of the piano tuner (Ivan Sokol). Most companies omit the piano technicians, yet credit (correctly) engineers, producers and assistants.

Those interested in exploring this repertoire further should locate a budget Regis disc of Smetana piano music played by the experienced Radoslav Kvapil (RRC1173). The disc's contents complement rather than replicate this Supraphon programme, including an interesting curio in the form of Smetana's Macbeth and the Witches. Kvapil plays selections of Polkas that predate the ones on the present disc, and thus helps to contextualise them – not to mention to underline the magnificence of the later works.

-- Colin Clarke, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Czech Dances (14) for Piano, T 112 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  Jitka Cechova (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Czech Republic 
Venue:  Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic 
Length: 56 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Notes: Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic (01/02/2007 - 02/18/2007) 
2.
Bettina's Polka in C major, B 114/T 81 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  Jitka Cechova (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859/1883; Czech Republic 
Venue:  Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic 
Length: 1 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Notes: Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic (01/02/2007 - 02/18/2007) 
3.
Peasant Woman, T 123 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  Jitka Cechova (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1879; Czech Republic 
Venue:  Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic 
Length: 3 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Notes: Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic (01/02/2007 - 02/18/2007) 
4.
Andante for Piano in F minor, T 125 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  Jitka Cechova (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Czech Republic 
Venue:  Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic 
Length: 0 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Notes: Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic (01/02/2007 - 02/18/2007) 
5.
Romanza for Piano in G minor, T 130 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  Jitka Cechova (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881; Czech Republic 
Venue:  Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic 
Length: 1 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Notes: Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic (01/02/2007 - 02/18/2007) 

Featured Sound Samples

Czech Dances for Piano, 1st Series: 1. Polka in F sharp minor
Czech Dances for Piano, 2nd Series: 5. The Little Onion

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