On an Overgrown Path, Books 1 & 2; In the Mists; Piano Sonata
Lars Vogt (piano)
Ondine ODE 1382-2 70:14 mins
Janáček’s piano works show a very different side of the composer from the celebrated operatic dramatist who could squeeze the most astonishing emotional range from the most unlikely material. On an Overgrown Path, from the first decade of the 20th century, began life as a small handful of pieces for harmonium for a collection entitled Slavonic Melodies, eventually extended and published in two volumes. Subtitled ‘Miniatures for piano’, these 15 short works go beyond the conventional salon piece in technique and emotional content.
Lars Vogt’s interview in the accompanying booklet indicates his thoughtful engagement with this music. The dynamic range of his playing, clear from the start of the cycle, is breathtaking, as is his delicacy of touch. Occasionally, as in ‘In tears’, the expressive intent seems to get in the way of the musical line, but everywhere there is much to admire. Much the same is true of his performance of In the Mists although the second number, while preserving a strong sense of line, seems uncharacteristically stilted and at times overly harsh in tone.
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Janáček’s Sonata, commemorating the harrowing events of a riot in which a young worker was killed, is full of volatile contrast. Vogt also projects a novel, almost Impressionist dimension. Overall, these closely recorded performances do not really offer a complete picture of these key works, but at almost every stage they are both arresting and rewarding.