Poetic Tone Pictures, Op. 85
Elena Bashkirova (piano)
CAvi-music AVI8553113 58:30 mins
Dvořák’s music for solo piano includes many gems even apart from the ever popular G flat major Humoresque. Although he developed a fluent keyboard style in chamber music, not to mention composing a piano concerto early in his career, he did not own a piano until he was 40. Nevertheless, his piano works are both idiomatic and original. The Poetic Tone Pictures were composed in 1889 when he was turning away from the Viennese classicism of his instrumental works from the mid 1880s and are, on his own admission, programmatic. Rather than following a narrative, these 13 substantial pieces are more meditations on their titles, for example ‘In the old castle’ and ‘On the holy mount’, the only work by Dvořák in 5/4 time.
Elena Bashkirova responds well to the considerable technical demands of these pieces, establishing from the start of the first, ‘Twlight way’, a remarkable blend of delicacy and virtuosity. She identifies completely with the mood of each, the exception being an uncharacteristically lumpy performance of number five, ‘The peasant’s ballad’. Particularly impressive is her reading of the penultimate number, ‘At a hero’s grave’, where Dvořák deploys full-throated Romantic grandeur. The recording is a little close, but not damagingly so.