Taking a break last night from Bach's Inventions, I listened to an ASV disc
I've had for about two years; it's devoted to the music of Vitezslav Novak
(1870-1949) and contains the piano quintet opus 12, 13 Slovak folksongs,
and Songs of Winter Night for solo piano.
A few months back, John Smyth posted about his enthusiasm for this disc,
although he stated a preference for Novak's orchestral works. At that
time I responded how I also liked the chamber works of Novak. Since those
postings, the appeal of chamber music of Novak's general time period has
increased substantially for me. So, as I listened to the ASV disc last
night, I found the piano quintet a stunning and beautiful work on a par
with the Philip Scharwenka piano quintet which I reviewed very favorably
a couple of weeks ago.
The Slovak folksongs are also very worthy compositions. The vocal soloist,
Magdalena Kozena, has a lovely voice, and the pianist Radoslav Kvapil has
this music in his veins.
However, I still do not appreciate the Songs of a Winter Night also
performed by Kvapil. I recognize the excellence of his performance, but
the music itself really turns me off. If there's any type of music that
I find overly emotional and over-wrought, it's romantic solo piano music.
Although I consider Liszt the role-model for this type of music, Novak's
fits in that category very well. Perhaps it's that I can't identify with
the huge outpouring of emotions or don't understand where these emotions
spring from. Whatever, listening to this music tends to put me in a bad
mood routinely, the same response I have to gospel music, pop ballads, and
funny/humorous music in general.
Getting back to the ASV disc, I greatly enjoy two of the three works, and
that's good enough to make the recording a "keeper". If you enjoy chamber
music of this period, like me, and also like solo piano music of the
period, the ASV disc could well be one of your favorites.
The Kocian String Quartet do the honors in the piano quintet and sound
thoroughly idiomatic. The catalog number is 998.
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