The Curious One
Concert Étude in C
On the Sea Shore – a memory
Fantasia on Czech Folksongs
Czech Dances, Book I – Polka in F sharp minor; Polka in A minor
Czech Dances, Book II – Hulán
Kathryn Stott (piano)
Recorded 18-20 October 2006 in Potton Hall, Suffolk
Reviewed by: Paul Cherry
Reviewed: June 2007
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10430
Duration: 68 minutes
For all that he is remembered as the composer of such evergreens as “The Bartered Bride” and ‘Vltava’ from Má vlast (My Country), Smetana (1824-1884) built his early musical reputation as a pianist whose repertoire included solo and chamber music and concertos.
This pleasing selection of Smetana’s own solo piano music includes the cycle of six pieces (playing for nearly half-an-hour) entitled Dreams, which dates from 1875 and shows a certain kinship with Liszt as well as a personal intimacy that is neither predictable or too maudlin. Smetana’s Czech background is revealed in the quicker pieces through the use of native rhythms while the closing movement, ‘Celebration of Czech country folk’, is a sparkling and vigorous number.
Of the remaining selection from Smetana’s piano oeuvre, and all are attractive, the Concert Étude is a glittering and splashy piece, the demands of which Kathryn Stott meets head-on without sacrificing light and shade or a sense of direction. Similarly On the Sea Shore abounds in waves of sound (quite appropriately) as well as a sense of nostalgia to justify the subtitle of ‘a memory’. It’s a picturesque piece of genuine delight and Stott plays it with relish.
She also has the measure of the specifically Czech pieces that wind the CD up. The rather grand and rumbustious Fantasia on Czech Folksongs is a real discovery (if you don’t know it already!) and the pair of polkas are, like Chopin’s mazurkas, rather more elusive than music written in dance-form might suggest. Hulán is a delicate flower that opens out to radiate warmth at its mid-point before returning, as it were, to its roots.
All very pleasant and well performed and recorded.