Kalabis • Krása • Martinů: Harpsichord Concertos
Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord); Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Liebreich (Hyperion)
Kalabis • Krása • Martinů
Martinů: Harpsichord Concerto; Krása: Kammermusik; Kalabis: Harpsichord Concerto
Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord); Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Liebreich
Hyperion CDA68397 60:34 mins
Although the harpsichord almost disappeared in the piano-dominated 19th century, it made a convincing reappearance in the 20th century with pioneers such as Wanda Landowska and her pupil, Marcelle Delacour, the dedicatee of Martinů’s Concerto premiered in Paris in 1936. Martinů’s writing for the insrument is remarkably idiomatic and delivered here by Mahan Esfahani with poise and elegance. The elements of Baroque pastiche are striking and beautifully integrated, especially in the exquisite Adagio.
Composed in Prague at the same time as Martinů’s Concerto, Krása’s Kammermusik for harpsichord and chamber instruments is much more modernist. All kinds of music, from military band music to jazz, are referenced and the harpsichord is used more as a complementary sonority than as a concertante soloist. If it lacks the coherence of Martinů’s Concerto, the instrumental colouring, particularly in this well-balanced performance, is undeniably beguiling.
Kalabis’s Concerto, composed for his wife, Zuzana Růžičková, another 20th-century harpsichord pioneer, dates from 1975. While it has something of the forward drive of the Martinů Concerto, the virtuosity of the harpsichord writing in the outer movements adds a thrilling dimension. The hypnotic slow movement, in which the approach to the harpsichord seems to have a more pianistic quality, is brilliantly sustained with a profound and impassioned conclusion. The finale is perhaps a touch overlong, but overall this is a fine work that deserves attention. Notwithstanding the odd rough edge in the first movement of the Martinů, these excellent and committed performances get to the heart of these fascinating works.