Smetana: Piano Works, Vol. 1: Rêves; Czech Dances; Polkas; Am Seegestade

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COMPOSERS: Smetana
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm
WORKS: Piano Works, Vol. 1: Rêves; Czech Dances; Polkas; Am Seegestade
PERFORMER: Claudius Tanski (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 312 0483-2
Smetana first came to the public’s attention as a pianist with a formidable technique. Much of his output for piano was devoted to dances and ‘Album leaves’. While many of these delightful pieces are touched by Czech dance rhythms, the influence of Liszt was pervasive even into his maturity, as the six ‘Dreams’, composed in 1875 when he was working on Má vlast, show. This thoughtfully compiled disc offers a broad cross-section of Smetana’s music for piano, from the early 1850s to the Czech Dances of the late 1870s.

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Claudius Tanski plays with genuine feeling for style, while the virtuoso passages are managed with exquisite clarity. At times the playing seems unduly hard, particularly in the F minor ‘Salon Polka’ and in some of the Czech Dances; there is also little sense of relaxation in the quieter pieces. Perhaps this is due in part to the 1901 Steinway used; while brilliant in tone, and superbly recorded, the sound can be brittle and the dynamic range is limited. Certainly an interesting issue, but not a fully rounded picture of Smetana the piano composer. Jan Smaczny