Dvorák: Complete Solo Piano Music / Stefan Veselka

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Dvorák's piano works get little attention in relation to his better known orchestral, chamber, choral, and operatic output, and even the best known of them, the ubiquitous Humoresque in G-flat (Op. 101 No. 7), usually is heard by way of elevator-music arrangements or bawdy parodies. It's true that Dvorák doesn't exploit the piano's resources on the virtuosic level of Chopin, Liszt, and Brahms. Yet the composer thoroughly understands the instrument and rarely is at a loss for first-rate musical ideas. He also has an ear for unusual textures and timbral combinations, such as assigning the C major Mazurka Op. 56 No. 2's melody and accompaniment to the keyboard's extreme registers. Listen to the deliciously varied Silhouettes Op. 8 or to the 13 pieces encompassing the nearly hour-long Poetic Tone-Pictures Op. 85 and you'll wonder why performers ignore such wonderful repertoire.

Fortunately, pianist Stefan Veselka not only recorded all of Dvorák's piano music for Naxos--he also lavished plenty of love and attention to detail on these scores. He plays quite differently than Radoslav Kvapil, whose late-1960s Dvorák cycle for Supraphon has remained a reference for nearly four decades. In the main, Veselka favors broader tempos, sharper accents, more brooding rubatos (the Waltzes Op. 54, the Suite in A major, and the Theme with Variations in A-flat, for example), and more marked contrasts in dynamics. Veselka's massive, full-bodied chord playing and emphatically sculpted filigree can be likened to orchestrating at the piano, whereas Kvapil's elegant, cameo-like pianism creates a more intimate impression. In other words, Veselka is Claudio Arrau to Kvapil's Wilhelm Kempff. Pressed to choose, I'd opt for Naxos' budget price and updated sonics, despite close miking that occasionally exaggerates the sound of the piano hammers in action. Whether you purchase the whole cycle bundled together here or choose to sample it via individual releases, a trove of undiscovered piano treasures await you. [8/17/2004]
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8505205

  • UPC: 730099152051

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Antonín Dvořák

  • Performer: Stefan Veselka