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A comparatively tiny body of music – fitting on one CD – Janácˇek’s piano music may lie less easily under the fingers than (to cite a contemporary miniaturist) that of Anton Webern, but it’s affecting and intriguing out of all proportion to its size, from the violent Sonata inspired by a brutally quelled demonstration of social unrest, through the elliptical tone-poem In the Mists, to the almost diary-like intimacy of From an Overgrown Path. Composed against the backdrop of failed ambitions and arduous work on his operas, these piano works offered refuge to Janácˇek. But rather than turning inward, the composer found huge potential within their intimacy. Proto-dramatic, these pieces explode with enthusiasm.
Who better, then, to convey the quirky poetry of this music’s sudden outbursts than someone who learnt it at the feet of the composer himself. When the seven-year-old Rudolf Firkušný took lessons from the great man in 1919, Janácˇek had already composed all the music here and was embarking on the remarkable Indian summer of operatically centred creative activity that, launched with the long-delayed premiere of Jenu°fa, came to confirm him as one of the last century’s most instinctively gifted composers for the stage. Firkušný became a far more adept pianist than Janácˇek ever managed, and in a lifetime of performing this music – the present issue represents his last recorded thoughts – came ever deeper to convey the hidden emotions of From an Overgrown Path’s titles such as ‘Our evenings’, ‘They chattered like swallows’, and ‘The barn-owl has not flown away’.
Sonata 1.X.1905 ("From the Street"): The Presentiment
Sonata 1.X.1905 ("From the Street"): The Death
Janácek: On The Overgrown Path - Our Evenings
On an Overgrown Path, Book I: 2. A Blown-Away Leaf
On an Overgrown Path, Book I: 3. Come with Us!
On an Overgrown Path, Book I: 4. The Madonna of Frydek
On an Overgrown Path, Book I: 5. They Chattered Like Swallows
On an Overgrown Path, Book I: 6. Words Fail!
On an Overgrown Path, Book I: 7. Good night!
On an Overgrown Path, Book I: 8. Unutterable Anguish
Janácek: On The Overgrown Path - In Tears
On an Overgrown Path, Book I: 10. The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away!
On an Overgrown Path, Book II: 1. Andante
On an Overgrown Path, Book II: 2. Allegretto; Presto
On an Overgrown Path, Book II: 3. Piu mosso
On an Overgrown Path, Book II: 4. Allegro; Adagio
On an Overgrown Path, Book II: 5. Vivo
In the Mist: I. Andante
Janácek: In The Mists - Molto Adagio
In the Mist: III. Andantino
In the Mist: IV. Presto
“Rudolf Firkušný … has long been a touchstone of interpretation of Janácˇek’s piano music; and his quickness of response, his sensitivity of phrase, his ability to seek out the essence of Janácˇek’s lyrical
statements in a brief melodic curve are as rewarding as ever.”
“Sophisticated, nuanced interpretations, fabulously paced in intensity, from a pianist long associated with the music of his fellow Czech. Truly great musicianship.”
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