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Dvorak Piano Concerto

Album cover image

SU 3067-2

--© Supraphon 1983

This unusual and fascinating disc combines performances of Dvorák's Piano Concerto by two great Czech pianists.

Album notes

The score of the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G minor, Op. 33, the first of a trio of key concertante works by Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904), was written from late August through September 14, 1876. Its autograph version contains a good many corrections, cuts, erasures and additions, most notably in the piano part. It is impossible to say now whether those changes were made still during the creative process or later on, after the work’s premiere, or again during the score’s revision which probably preceded the concerto’s publication (J. Hainauer, 1883). The soloist of the work’s first performance (Prague, March 24,1878, with the orchestra of Prague’s Provisional Theatre under the baton of Adolf Cech) was, in accord with Dvorak’s wish, Czech pianist Karel Slavkovsky. The Concerto’s premiere on the international circuit (London, October 13, 1883) featured German born British pianist Oscar Beringer. Its third solo interpreter (Prague, January 4, 1884) was Ella Modricka, a Czech virtuoso and a pupil of Franz Liszt. Two subsequent performances (Berlin 1884, with Anna Grosser-Rilke; and London 1885, with Franz Rummel), were conducted by Dvorak himself. In his lifetime it received one more reading, by Josef Ruzicka with the Czech Philharmonic under Oskar Nedbal, in Prague on March 12, 1898.

The Concerto’s piano part, considerably different though it was from the period standard virtuoso stylizations, seemed to have been accepted without reservations by its first interpreters. And yet, later on it came to be regarded as the principal cause underlying pianists’ scant interest in this particular work by Dvorak. Therefore also in 1919 a prominent Czech educationalist, Professor Vilem Kurz (1872-1945), tried to eliminate the prevailing prejudice about the Concerto as an ungratifying piece of music, interpretation-wise, by a thorough overhaul - involving both simplification and enrichment - of Dvorak’s piano stylization. Kurz’s adaptation was then brought to life thanks most notably to his pupils Rudolf Firkusny, Frantisek Maxian and other pianists from his school which was subsequently represented by Kurz’s daughter Ilona Stepanova. The Concerto’s new version was included, alongside Dvorak’s original score, in a complete edition of his works published in 1956. The conception of the present CD enables the listener to assess the difference between the two versions by means of their immediate confrontation.

Ivan Moravec (1930) followed up his Prague studies and further courses in Italy, with Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli, with an ascending trajectory marking his career as an exceptionally endowed pianist, both technically and expression-wise, a path which he has pursued right up to the zenith of world repute. Audiences and critics at home and abroad alike have highly praised his accounts of works of European Classical and Romantic music, including the output of the founders of Czech national music. A pupil of Ilona Stepanova, he naturally chose to interpret here Kurz’s adaptation of the Dvorak Concerto. The Concerto was recorded in a slightly abridged version (leaving out bars 206-238 from the first movement, and bars 233-305 from the Finale).

Radoslav Kvapil (1934) received his musical education in Brno. Following a versatile career at home and on the international circuit, he has taken up a stable place among the most active propagators of Czech music abroad. His wide-ranging repertoire gives him ample opportunities to organize specialized thematic programmes with lectures in most European countries and overseas. Quite by design, he has respected Dvorak’s original version of this Piano Concerto’s solo part. He appreciates it as an exemplar of compositional and stylizing originality, and considers the seeming lack of piano character in its setting to reflect Dvorak’s purposeful reaction to the period conventional instrumental diction.

--© Jiri Berkovec 1996 © Translation Ivan Vornácka 1996


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