On An Overgrown Path (arr. Rumier); plus Dvorˇák: Nocturne in B, Op.40; Suk: Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale Saint Wenceslas
Maia Brami (speaker); Camerata Zürich/Igor Karsko (violin)
ECM 485 6433 68:32 mins
The evocative piano miniature was a favourite among Czech composers in the 19th century. Janáček’s suite On an Overgrown Pathbelongs in this tradition, but unsurprisingly with a characteristically personal twist; for example ‘Come with us!’, number three, begins as a homely polka, but soon develops a more personal, darker aspect. This recording is very much a ‘one off’ to mark Camerata Zürich’s 60th anniversary, presenting the pieces in arrangements for string orchestra by Daniel Rumier. Alongside the first ten of On an Overgrown Path are poems in French by Maïa Brami gathered at the end of the piano cycle; read by the author, they evoke the wooded Beskydy Hills where Janáček wandered in his childhood and which provide the backdrop to these deeply felt piano pieces.
Under Igor Karsko’s committed direction, the playing of Camerata Zürich is superb and very well recorded, and there is a clear feeling throughout for the rich sentiment underlying these memories of youth. Karsko’s tempos, however, are on the fast side: ‘A leaf blown away’ marked Andante feels closer to Allegro, and in many places the arresting idiosyncrasies of Janáček’s piano writing fail to emerge. This approach works best in the more orchestrally conceived numbers, in particular ‘The Madonna of Frýdek’ where the main melody ‘heard from a distance’ is exquisite. To complain about such lovely playing feels churlish, but the very same expertise tends to smooth over the volatile contrasts that make these pieces so human.