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Just a beautiful Leos Janacek release by FirkusnyJan. 2 2013
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This recording by eminent Czech pianist Rudolf Firkusny from 1990, late in the long-lived pianist's career, surprisingly hasn't yet been reviewed on Amazon. It is an outstanding one - beautiful music played by a truly excellent musician.
The Sonata 1905 is one of the great piano compositions I have ever heard. Composed in a white heat to commemorate a killing spurred by ethnic conflict in Janacek's native Brno, it is tragic and beautiful. Janacek's characteristic piano writing is uncharacteristic, in that it doesn't fall under the fingers easily. The Sonata is filled with large chords that need to be underplayed to let the melodies come through. One of Firkusny's many virtues - the ability to play softly while remaining in complete control of the keyboard - is of particular importance throughout this disc and helps him achieve a poignant Sonata 1905.
Janacek's piano music dates from a period where he was coming into his own stylistically, which happened late in life, in his 40s and 50s. "On an overgrown path" consists of a group of miniatures composed over about a decade and completed in 1911, a time which saw Janacek tragically experience the death of his daughter and on the professional front a frustrating experience trying to bring his first major opera "Jenufa" to a successful staging. Lasting about 45 minutes, "On an overgrown path" is made up of short pieces, with the first book being particularly reminiscent of Robert Schumann's piano music stylistically. The second book is more advanced in terms of chromatic harmony. But all are charming and attractive. I can't underline enough how beautifully Firkusny plays this music. A terrific performance.
"In the mists" dates from 1912 and marks the conclusion of Janacek's career writing for solo piano. The increased harmonic complexity shows Janacek advancing towards a more modern idiom. I found this to be a worthwhile, interesting suite. Firkusny also includes a brief reminiscence, based on music from Janacek's fantastic opera, "Kata Kabanova."
Recorded sound is very good. This is just a great CD which I strongly recommend.