Igor Ardašev

Dvorák: Slavonic Dances

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Dvorák's lively Slavonic Dances are favorite encores for orchestra, much less frequently heard in its original version for piano duet. In those orchestral versions, as with many of Dvorák's works, there is a general conception that Czech musicians give the best performances, that they have an instinct for the rhythms and folk music influences. This recording features the Czech husband-wife piano team of Igor and Renata Ardasev, and they have good instincts when it comes to working together, but not necessarily enough to make the most of these dances. This was the first time the two worked together on a project, according to the notes, but there are no technical ensemble problems in their playing. Despite being soloists before this, the two are excellent at making their parts work together. There is no competition between them to have their own part heard above the other. They plainly bring out each other's important lines and figures without hampering and confusing them by what is meant to be accompaniment. There is a good deal of dancing energy and liveliness here, and a sense of phrasing and shaping in each section of each dance. It's just disappointing that that sense of phrasing isn't more expressive, more dramatic, more sparkling. These don't need to be flashy and melodramatic, although they can be and can be quite enjoyable that way, but a little more tension and suspense between sections here and there would have been nice. The Ardasevs barely slow down between the first and second parts of No. 1 of the Op. 46 set, and use hardly any ritard before the second theme comes back toward the end of it. Dance No. 10 (Op. 72, No. 2) is lilting and song-like, but there isn't enough ardent longing in it. There also isn't enough of a difference between readings when a passage is repeated. To add to all this, the sound of the recording is dull, although it does nicely pick up the extreme registers of the piano without making the upper keys too bright. The ensemble work here couldn't be better, and these Slavonic Dances do move along, but the Ardasevs need to add some panache to top them off.

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