Dvorak: Mazurkas, Op. 56; Suite in A; Impromptu in D minor

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: Mazurkas, Op. 56; Suite in A; Impromptu in D minor
PERFORMER: Radoslav Kvapil (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3398-2 Reissue (1967/73)
Dvorák’s piano music is full of unexpected touches. This reissue of part of a near-vintage complete recording offers a number of gems: the open-hearted American Suite – Dvorák’s closest approach to the popular style in America – the elegant set of Mazurkas and some exquisite impressionistic colouring at the heart of the Impromptu, chief among them. Pioneering in their day, Kvapil’s performances had many virtues and were well recorded. Occasionally, I now find his advocacy for this music a little over-emphatic in the faster music; many of these miniatures need more ‘space’ to breath – particularly the Furiant.

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Kvapil’s latest recording of Dvorák’s piano music is made on the composer’s own piano, a Bosendorfer purchased in 1879. Although the dynamic range is restricted, the ear soon adjusts, and the quieter pieces have a delightfully veiled quality. Kvapil finds some rich tone in the middle range, especially in the delightful Waltzes, and the vividness of Dvorák’s occasional cimbalom like shakes are a real revelation. There is some idiomatic playing on this record, but without the advocacy of his early recording, the Mazurkas, also presented here, seem perfunctory, and often there is not enough rhythmic bounce to energise the brisker paced dances. Jan Smaczny