LABELS: Grand Piano
ALBUM TITLE: Kaprálová
WORKS: Complete piano music
PERFORMER: Giorgio Koukl (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: GP708
Once remembered mainly as the dedicatee of Martin∞’s Fifth String Quartet, Vítezslava Kaprálová (1915-1940) has emerged from the shadows of the men in her brief but intense life as one of the leading Czech composers of her day. Born in Brno, she was surrounded by pupils of Janácek, including her father Václav Kaprál, Ludvík Kundera (father of the novelist Milan Kundera) and the great pianist Rudolf Firkun. Moving to Paris to study with Martinu, she became his lover and both their musical outputs bear testimony to the bittersweet turbulence of the relationship, which ended in April 1940 when she married Jirí Mucha (himself son of the famous Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha). Seven weeks later she was dead from tuberculosis, and Martin∞ was fleeing Vichy France for America.
So it is not hard to understand how her fascinating yet tragic biography has obscured the quality of her own musical achievements (which include becoming probably the first woman to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra). Giorgio Koukl’s survey of her complete solo piano music spans the years 1933 to 1940 and includes world premiere recordings, among them of her final piano work, an unpublished Dance reconstructed by Koukl; intriguingly, it seems to pre-echo the spirit of Martin∞’s Etudes and Polkas. The masterpieces here are the April Preludes and Variations du le Carillon de l’église St Étienne-du-Mont, but it is good to hear them in context of works all reflecting Kaprálová’s early emotional and pianistic maturity. Koukl’s project is admirably conceived and performed, yet some of this music still awaits a player able to fully match Kaprálová’s flair.