WORKS: Piano Works: Trois Polkas de Salon, Op. 7; Stammbuchblätter, Op. 2; Charakterstücke, Op. 3; Skizzen, Op. 4; Skizzen, Op. 5; Trois Polkas poétiques, Op .8; Melodien Schatz
PERFORMER: Jitka Cechová (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3844-2
For all the undoubted achievement of his operas and symphonic poems, Smetana was first and foremost a pianist. He was himself a formidable performer and even in later years, though deaf and diminished by illness, he could still dazzle friends with his remarkable virtuosity.
Most of Smetana’s significant music for the instrument dates from the late-1840s and the 1850s. This highly attractive collection, the fourth CD in a complete series of recordings of Smetana’s piano music, features small-scale works from this period. While the various ‘sketches’ and ‘album leaves’ are in the Schumann tradition, they all show remarkable individuality; the very first Polka, Smetana’s favourite dance, could easily have been written in his composing maturity and throughout the level of melodic inspiration is striking.
Jitka Cechová’s profound experience and feeling for this repertoire is evident throughout. Her blend of rhythmic spontaneity and subtle reflection imbues these relatively slight works with a remarkable depth reaching heights of eloquence in the elusive Three Poetic Polkas, Op. 8. She is also very much in tune with the harmonic sophistication of Smetana’s music – try, for example, the Rhapsody from Op. 5. Excellently recorded, this CD is a very distinguished addition to a fine series. Jan Smaczny