Collection: Czech Piano Music

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Haas,Janacek,Suk,Vorisek
LABELS: Koch
WORKS: Things Lived and Dreamt, Op. 30; In the Mist; Suite, Op. 13; Impromptus, Op. 7
PERFORMER: Edith Kraus (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7231-2 DDD

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While Suk’s orchestral music is now relatively familiar, his captivating piano works have lagged behind. Niel Immelman is engaged on a complete recording and, so far, the results are very encouraging. Along with the bulk of Czech Romantics, Suk favoured the miniature. But if many of the pieces in this elegantly arranged first volume are short, their content often belies their brief span. There are hints of Dvorák, Debussy and, fleetingly, Janácek in these works, but Suk’s own individuality constantly emerges to surprise and delight.

Immelman’s performances are always enjoyable, even if he doesn’t quite get under the skin of more soulful numbers such as the fourth movement of the suite Spring or the elegiac last number of Things Lived and Dreamt. The recording is a touch over-resonant, but the ear soon adjusts. The latest issue in the Terezín Memorial Project comes from a remarkable pianist. The main novelty of Edith Kraus’s recital is the Suite by her fellow inmate in Terezín concentration camp, Pavel Haas.

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Haas’s debt to his teacher, Janácek, is clear, but his invention is consistently lively, especially in the Pastorale fourth movement. In this important documentary survey, Krauss also plays Suk, Janácek and Vorísek with appealing affection, despite a dry acoustic with little sense of dynamic range. Jan Smaczny