COMPOSERS: Dvořák & Suk,Janacek
ALBUM TITLE: Jennifer Pike: Janáček, Dvořák & Suk
WORKS: Janáček Violin Sonata; Dumka, KW VII/4; Romance, JW VII/3; Allegro, JW IX/9 • Suk Four Pieces, Op. 17 • Dvořák Romantic Pieces, Op. 75; Nocturne, Op. 40
PERFORMER: Jennifer Pike (violin); Tom Poster (piano)
There is no grand corpus of Romantic Czech violin music, unlike the quartet repertoire, but hidden among the fragments there is much to delight the listener. The most substantial work offered here is JanáΩek’s Violin Sonata. Originally conceived in January 1914 amid the febrile atmosphere of a continent going to war, JanáΩek revised the work many times. Nevertheless, it retains coherence and, in the concluding piano tremolandos of the finale, disquiet at the prospect of war. Both the piano and violin playing take due note of the work’s momentous context, but as a whole, there is little sense of overall direction. Moreover, the recording favours the, admittedly vital, piano part at the expense of the violin.
The remaining pieces by JanáΩek have an appropriate Romantic sheen. The real gem, however, is Suk’s Four Pieces. Composed in 1900, and beautifully played, they are at times surprisingly modernist and show the emergence of a truly individual voice. The performances of the two Dvoπák pieces lack a sense of engagement, a pity since these skilfully crafted arrangements of earlier works can have an irresistible lyrical charm. For a performance of the JanáΩek Sonata that blends drama with formal clarity, Jana Vlachová’s reading (Naxos 8.553895) is far more compelling. Jan Smaczny