Antonin Kubalek / Peter Schmalfuss

Smetana: Piano Music

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As the liner notes accompanying this set point out, it is a shame Smetana's piano music isn't played more often. Like Dvorák's piano music, it draws on Czech folk music, but in many ways it is more inventive than Dvorák's piano music, more pianistic, more sophisticated. This Brilliant release pairs a 1988 recording by Antonin Kubalek of Smetana's Czech Dances with a 1980 recording by Peter Schmalfuss of some of Smetana's character pieces. Kubalek plays the two books of Czech Dances with an equal amount of attention to the mood or moods of each stylized dance and to the dancing motion. Each one, whether it is the gentle "Grain Dance" or the much more exciting "Hop Dance," has a constant momentum in addition to a well-defined character. The sound of the Kubalek recording is cold, but decent enough. On the other hand, the sound in the Schmalfuss recording has a very round echoey nature that reinforces the impression of weightiness in his touch, even in delicate, eloquent passages. He brings out the drama and flashiness of Smetana's character pieces. Even in the polkas, there is more of the theater than the dance floor in his playing. En Bohême, scène champêtre, one of the Rêves, is earthy and vigorous rather than pastoral, while "Sehnsucht, Op. 1/4," reaches for the bathos of a piece by Liszt. While Smetana may have been trying to imitate Liszt and Schumann in these works, they would probably be just as effective with more restrained emotion. Nevertheless, the discs here give a good idea of Smetana's creativity in a genre that is more voluminous than -- but overshadowed by -- his orchestral and operatic works.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Souvenir de Bohême en forme de polkas (Memories of Bohemia), for piano, Book 1, JB 1:76 (Op. 12)
1
4:21
Souvenir de Bohême en forme de polkas (Memories of Bohemia), for piano, Book 2, JB 1:77 (Op. 13)
2
1:58
3
5:17
4
3:40
5
3:26
Rêves (Dreams), characteristic pieces (6) for piano, JB 1:103
6
4:13
7
4:09
8
4:32
9
4:10
10
4:47
11
4:38
12
5:34
13
1:07
14
8:56
Characteristic Pieces (6), for piano, JB 1:35 (Op. 1)
15
3:37
16
3:55
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