Dvorak: Piano Concerto; Diabelli Variations; Bagatelles

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Supraphon
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorak Concertos
WORKS: Piano Concerto; Diabelli Variations; Bagatelles
PERFORMER: Martin Kasik, Jiri Barta, Czech PO, Jiri Belohlavek
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3774
Although Dvoák only owned a piano from 1880, this did not prevent him writing effective solo and piano-accompanied music during the 1870s. When it came to the virtuoso demands of a concerto, his approach was more empirical: revisions to the piano part show that he went to considerable lengths to capture the right rhetorical tone. Nevertheless, his solo part has been deemed ineffective and various ‘improvements’ made, the most thoroughgoing being by Vilem Kurz. In fact, Dvoák’s original displays considerable delicacy, perhaps reflecting the relatively small size of orchestra he could expect in his day in Prague. Martin Kasík, the soloist here, takes the view, as did many Czech pianists, that a conflation of Dvoák and Kurz is the solution. He makes a good case for it in this big-boned performance, expressively, if not always neatly accompanied by Jií Kout, but is not nearly as persuasive as Pierre-Laurent Aimard playing Dvoák’s original piano part with Harnoncourt.

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Big-boned is perhaps the best epithet for Jií Bárta’s reading of the Cello Concerto. As with so many performances these days, the composer’s tempo instructions are exaggerated and his metronome marks often ignored. At times expression verges on mannerism, notably in the central section of the first movement which becomes almost a mini-slow movement and in the lead up to the return of the big tune. Notwithstanding attentive accompaniment from Blohlávek and a resonant recording, shared by the Piano Concerto, this is not recommendable, nor, in hardly any way, to be compared with Fournier and Szell. Jan Smaczny