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Smetana: Polkas / Andras Schiff


Release Date: 09/27/2011 
Label:  Apex   Catalog #: 72756   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  András Schiff
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 56 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Smetana's piano music has always counted among my most ardent musical enthusiasms, and I was thrilled to discover a pianist of András Schiff's stature tackling a by-no-means predictable programme of polkas. The best-known pieces outside of the present recital are probably the four that make up the first series of Czech Dances (as recorded by Rudolf Firkun' and others). And yet, to study a polka like the E flat Allegro, tempo rubato from the Souvenirs of Bohemia in the form of Polkas, Op. 13 is to witness a blend of yearning chromaticism typical of the composer, with additional elements drawn from Chopin. The work was composed during Smetana's Swedish sojourn and suggests aching homesickness expressed in musical terms. Op. 12 is Read more similarly Chopinesque, though the expansive moderato second movement (the longest piece on the programme) has a folklike melodic slant, harmonic richness and sense of narrative that are entirely Smetana's own.

The three Salon (or 'Drawing Room') Polkas, Op. 7, dedicated to Smetana's first wife, are among the most charming, especially the first piece. Much of this music was written in the wake of great loss (annotator Graham Melville-Mason suggests that the second of the three Poetic Polkas could reflect the illness and death of Smetana's second daughter), though its cheerful demeanour spells courage and optimism. Perhaps the most immediately appealing piece on the disc is the delightful A major Polka that in some bizarre way anticipates the Waltz from Bernstein's 1980 Divertimento.

Schiff's programme is of varying levels of technical difficulty but the same interpretative virtues are common throughout, i.e. a marked liking for inner voices, a lilt to the rhythms (notably in the second Op. 13 piece), crisp fingerwork and a natural approach to rubato. Comparing Schiff to the excellent Jan Novotn on Supraphon (which programmes the majority of pieces included here) is interesting in that the Hungarian is more prone to employ colouristic effects, the Czech more likely to lay equal stresses on all voices (useful for underlining Smetana's often sombre harmonies). Both players are masterful, though Schiff's delicious brand of pianistic sorcery will probably win this music the largest audiences, and Teldec's recording is marginally the better of the two.

– Gramophone [7/1999]
reviewing original release of this title, Teldec 21261
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Works on This Recording

1. Polkas de salon (3) for Piano, B 94/T 62/Op. 7 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1854; Czech Republic 
Date of Recording: 01/1998 
Venue:  Teldec Studios, Berlin 
Length: 11 Minutes 19 Secs. 
2. Polkas poétiques (3) for Piano, B 95/T 63/Op. 8 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1854; Czech Republic 
Date of Recording: 01/1998 
Venue:  Teldec Studios, Berlin 
Length: 10 Minutes 20 Secs. 
3. Polka for Piano in F minor, JB 1:63 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853-1855; Czech Republic 
Date of Recording: 01/1998 
Venue:  Teldec Studios, Berlin 
Length: 2 Minutes 40 Secs. 
4. Polka for Piano in A major, JB 1:57 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1850-1853; Czech Republic 
Date of Recording: 01/1998 
Venue:  Teldec Studios, Berlin 
Length: 5 Minutes 20 Secs. 
5. Polkas (3) for Piano: no 1 in E major B 88/T 54 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1852-1853; Czech Republic 
Date of Recording: 01/1998 
Venue:  Teldec Studios, Berlin 
Length: 2 Minutes 58 Secs. 
6. Polkas (3) for Piano: no 2 in G minor B 89/T 55 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1852-1853; Czech Republic 
Date of Recording: 01/1998 
Venue:  Teldec Studios, Berlin 
Length: 5 Minutes 35 Secs. 
7. Souvenirs (4) of Bohemia, B 115-16/T 83-84/Op. 12-13 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859-1960; Czech Republic 
Date of Recording: 01/1998 
Venue:  Teldec Studios, Berlin 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 If June 11, 2013 By Anthony G. (valley stream, NY) See All My Reviews "If you desire to sample, and to own, one cd by Smetana, then this is the cd for you. The music is a tonic: irrepressibly energetic, subtle, unexpected, and delightful to listen to in a way that you have never heard music expressed before. Certainly not polkas. This surpasses the polk in form and substance. Surprise! The notes, finger work, and density of the music--the viscosity of the notes--are unexpected and Schiff carrys these polkas off with great aplomb. Although sheer delight, this music is NOT fluff. Fetch the scorex as I did, if you wish, and you would be amazed how much density could produce so much lilt and lusciousness." Report Abuse
 Brilliant Czech Piano Scores October 20, 2012 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "Saturated with classic Czech folk influences, this delightful piano recital can easily be enjoyed either as background 'noise' or as serious listening. Andras Schiff's affinity for Central and Eastern European music is clearly on display here, and the sonic quality of the recording is excellent. Recommended." Report Abuse
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