David Gross

Jan Václav Vorísek: Piano Music

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The orchestral music of Jan Václav Vorísek sometimes shows up on programs mounted in or connected with Czech lands, but his keyboard music is a good deal rarer. It fell out of the repertory soon after the composer's death in 1825, displaced by the more distinctively Romantic music that soon followed. Yet as pianist and annotator David Gross points out in this U.S. release, Vorísek's music was quite popular and was in many ways emblematic of the Biedermeier aesthetic that accompanied the crack-up of the old aristocratic regimes and the rise of the middle class. It is not as serious as Beethoven, but it somehow is preferable to the music of Ries, who aped Beethoven's manner but lacked his urgency. The Six Impromptus, Op. 7, heard here are light in tone but extremely cleverly constructed (sample the entrancing, almost minimal quality of the Allegro in C major, track 4), and Gross is right to hold them up as forgotten forerunners of the Romantic character piece. The Sonata quasi una fantasia in B flat minor, Op. 20, with its allusion to Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata in the title, likewise departs from the usual movement sequence; it consists, oddly, of three fast movements, with a very Beethovenian finale built on running triplets. The concluding Fantaisie in C major is more evocative of improvisation than are the impromptus, and it, too, sounds like music the early Romantics would have known. Even the small March in C major (track 10), which Gross apparently found in an archive and has never been recorded before, is both jocular and well crafted. Gross produced the album himself, often a recipe for disappointing sound, but in this case the sonics (from an undisclosed location) are straightforward. A worthwhile and enjoyable release of interest to anyone intrigued by the music of the post-Beethoven generation.

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