Janacek: Piano Sonata (A Street Scene, 1.X.1905); On an Overgrown Path; In the Mists; Violin Sonata in A flat minor; Fairy Tale; Three Moravian Dances; Reminiscence

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Janacek
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Piano Sonata (A Street Scene, 1.X.1905); On an Overgrown Path; In the Mists; Violin Sonata in A flat minor; Fairy Tale; Three Moravian Dances; Reminiscence
PERFORMER: Roland Pöntinen (piano), Ulf Wallin (violin), Mats Rondin (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-663/664 DDD
For lovers of anthologies, this double CD issue seems, at first sight, ideal: all Janácek’s works for violin and cello with piano plus all the solo piano pieces (well almost all – the distinctly unmemorable Music for Club Swinging is missing). On display is an appreciable chunk of Janácek’s volatile genius, ranging from the intimacy of On an Overgrown Path, through the deeply felt tragedy of the Piano Sonata, ‘In memory of a worker bayonetted during demonstrations calling for a university in Brno’, to the wit and irony of the Fairy-tale for cello and piano.

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This music-making is not mere anthologising for the sake of it – each performance is well thought out and at times taps a vein of strong emotion. It’s unfair to expect every rendition in this large enterprise to triumph completely, but too often there is inadequate engagement with the dramatic dimension that brings these largely programmatic pieces to life. The Fairy Tale and On an Overgrown Path need to be presented as stories; the performers give us virtuosity and often passion, but I rarely felt that important truths were being confided. This said, the standard is never less than good, and frequently it is better. I could have wished for a slightly more generous hearing for the cello, but in general the sound is excellent. Jan Smaczny