Janácek: Piano Sonata (1.x.1905); In the Mists; On the Overgrown Path, Book 1

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Virgin The Classics
WORKS: Piano Sonata (1.x.1905); In the Mists; On the Overgrown Path, Book 1
PERFORMER: Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VM 5 61839 2 Reissue (1991)

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Though full of passion, the pieces of Janácek’s On the Overgrown Path demand relatively simple responses from the player, founded as they are on a flourishing piano miniature tradition in the Czech lands. The two-movement Piano Sonata is quite different: bursting with operatic drama it requires both intensity and, for fear of losing the argument that is undoubtedly there, an ability to trace the intellectual thread. Undoubtedly Andsnes can project the vigour and intensity of the work, but I miss a consistent engagement with line. This is impressive performing, but does not offer the same level of involvement as Firkusný’s classic recording. On the Overgrown Path and In the Mists contain lovely things, but, with too much rubato and a lack of clarity of line, they remain somewhat incomplete experiences; Andsnes has clear sympathy for Janácek’s idiom, but rarely prevents Janácek’s gathering of succinct musical phrases from fragmenting.

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Jan Smaczny