Jitka Cechová

Smetana: Piano Works - Czech Dances, Bettina Polka, The Peasant Woman

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In her third installment of Bedrich Smetana's piano works, Jitka Cechová again proves to listeners what a crime it is that Smetana is known nearly exclusively for Má Vlast, the Bartered Bride, and perhaps the E minor String Quartet. His works for solo piano were extensive -- at least enough to fill three CDs -- and are woefully underperformed. Like previous volumes, we see Smetana focusing on dances. In fact, only two tracks heard here (the Andante in F minor and the Romance in G minor) are not dances. The dance of choice is, of course, the Polka, and Cechová delivers brilliantly idiomatic rhythmic and dynamic nuance to this form. The second set of Czech dances are more like short character pieces often associated with Schumann. With evocative titles like The Oats, The Bear, and The Little Onion, the stylistic demands placed on the artist are extensive, but Cechová is able to instantly grab listeners' attention and convince them of the character of each short dance. While her technique is quite solid with very detailed an intricate figurations, there's an occasional lack of power. The beginning of The Bear, for example, seems a little too nice and could benefit from a heavier, more forceful hand. Nonetheless, this album not only makes an enjoyable addition to any collection, but the works heard here will hopefully be made part of the standard repertoire canon.

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