JANÁCEK On an Overgrown Path. Ej, danaj! Moravian Dances. Variations for Zdenka. Sonata “I. X. 1905.” In the Mists. Miniatures. A Recollection. Album for Kamila Stösslová. Moravian Folksongs • Cathy Krier (pn) • AVI 8553290 (2 CDs: 110:15)
"Cathy Krier—born, trained, performing, and recording in Luxembourg—appears to be about 16 in the photos, but her playing reveals a mature, sophisticated artist. So do her interview comments: “… finely nuanced structures in miniature, punctuated by several distinct changes of mood within one piece. Those changes can be abrupt, occasionally giving rise to a certain form of brutality. Janácek’s scores are the only ones I know that contain the indicationRead morecon durezza, ‘with harshness’.”
Although Janácek was already a part of her repertoire, Krier spent three months researching his piano music. Then she waited a few weeks “to re-establish a healthy distance between Janácek and myself.” She had intended to record the complete piano works, but she rejected some “mere exercises or sketches” as not worthy of the composer. Her playing is more than just mature; it is phenomenal in both technique and musical understanding. Krier can create atmosphere in a brief span of three or four notes: ominous portent, gaiety, profundity, yearning. She breathes life into Janácek’s music: several of these pieces—the Allegro from the “Paralipomena, Korycanský troják” of the Moravian Dances, the Variations for Zdenka, the rough, awkward 1892 Ej, danaj!—come alive as never before. In her range of tonal color, Krier exceeds even such masters of Czech music as Radoslav Kvapil and Ivo Kahánek; she nearly matches the former’s intensity and the latter’s brilliance.
Nor are the big “important” pieces immune to Krierization. She leans on the sustaining pedal in “Foreboding,” the first movement of the Sonata. Is it overkill? I don’t think so; this is not just a sonata, it is a recounting of a murder, and dramatic gestures are totally within the pale. Krier’s In the Mists is not as drenched in fog as Kvapil’s memorable account; her gentle sections are beautifully simple, her abrupt changes wild and spellbinding. In her hands, the final Presto is a four-minute summary of everything Janácek. But others have also made as much of these two great works; it is in the smaller pieces, so often played as if just to get through them, that Krier’s vision, imagination, and executive excellence shine most brightly. Disc two ends with the Moravian Folksongs, a piece somewhat removed from Janácek’s usual style; Krier’s daring, imaginative reading sounds odd at first, but she soon convinces us that what she has to say is very worthwhile. It seems thoroughly folk-like, although I am no expert on Moravian culture.
We are not told what instrument is being played; it has a lovely, consistent tone. The recording was made in early 2013 at Philharmonie Luxembourg; the acoustic is warm and the recording first rate. Krier was 27 or 28 at the time. I find it somewhat distasteful (and certainly misleading) that she is being marketed as a sweet young thing; this is a master pianist at work. Her own website does portray her as an adult. This marvelous recital prompts the question: can Krier do as well with the music of other composers? Her debut recording, from 2007, includes music by Scarlatti, Haydn, Chopin, Alexander Müllenbach (a Luxembourg contemporary), and Dutilleux. Once again Krier’s playing displays extraordinary technical fluency and her written comments mature comprehension. Her Dutilleux Sonata is lucid and coherent; her Haydn F-Minor Variations has all the elements but does not quite jell. That disc would evoke a “promising young artist” conclusion. Everyone should have Janácek piano music in his or her library; Krier’s is the set to have."
Excellent way to collect Janacek's piano worksAugust 7, 2014By Gail M. (Goleta, CA)See All My Reviews"This 2-disk set of piano pieces is a convenient way to obtain fine performances of a wide range of Janacek's music. Krier projects the unusual style of these works with very beautiful, skilled playing. These compositions span the time between 1880 and 1928, the year if Janacek's death, and generally they fit into the late romantic era. Janacek's manner of communicating feelings is a bit strange. It took me a while to begin to understand this music, but it is interesting from the first hearing. Recording quality is excellent."Report Abuse