Ewa Kupiec

Janácek: Works for Piano Solo

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Heretofore something of a specialist in the music of Grazyna Bacewicz -- although the young Polish pianist had earlier released four discs of Chopin, her later recordings for Hänssler were a single disc of solo piano music and a two-disc set of the Polish composer's complete works for violin and piano with Piotr Plawner -- Ewa Kupiec in this two-disc set takes on the solo piano works of the Moravian composer Leos Janácek. In most ways, the results are excellent. Kupiec is a strong-fingered pianist with a virtuoso technique, a huge range of colors, and a deeply passionate nature, and her take on the wildman of Czech music is confident and self-assured. In the three great works -- the Sonata I. X. 1905, In the mists, and the first book of On the Overgrown Path -- Kupiec turns in performances that fully grasp the music's heights of ecstasy and depths of despair. Naturally her approach works less well in the lesser works -- the very early Tema con variazioni and the only slightly later Three Moravian Dances -- where there is less need for ardent intensity. Listeners who know Rudolf Firkusny's classic recordings might miss his more natural and less studied approach along with his more instinctive way with Janácek's idiosyncratic rhythms, but there is so much in Kupiec's performances to enjoy that even they may come to admire them. Hänssler's digital piano sound is lush, rich, and round.

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