Dvorak: Poetic Tone Pictures, Op. 85; Theme and Variations, Op. 36

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Unicorn-Kanchana
WORKS: Poetic Tone Pictures, Op. 85; Theme and Variations, Op. 36
PERFORMER: Radoslav Kvapil (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DKP(CD) 9137 DDD
Radoslav Kvapil has done sterling service for the cause of Czech piano and chamber music, including a complete recording of Dvorak’s piano works. This is the first in a series devoted to Czech piano music in general, and there are few performers better informed to take on such a task. Kvapil’s sympathies range broadly, and if his own concert repertoire is a guide, then this series should attract anyone interested in late 19th-century and 20th-century piano music as well as the Czech enthusiast.

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In the course of Dvorak’s Theme and Variations there are hints of Beethoven, Chopin and Schumann, but there is also abundant evidence of the composer’s particular musical voice. Kvapil’s performance suits the more reflective passages rather better than the hectoring, at times artificial, virtuosity of the remainder. He seems happier in the delightful Poetic Tone Pictures, Op. 85 – a compendium of picturesque, expressive pieces which are satisfying on their own terms while also looking forward, at times, to the piano music of Janacek. The main drawback with this CD is the recorded piano sound, which is shallow and at times a touch quavery. The recording quality must improve if this series is to have the success it richly deserves. Jan Smaczny