“Moravec's playing is absolutely gorgeous. His touch ... is breathtakingly light and varied. It makes one wonder why more international pianists don't include them in their recitals.”
1Polka in A minor (Czech Dances, Series 1 No. 2)
2Hulán (Lancer) in A major (Series 2, No. 7)
3Obkročák in E-flat major (Series 2, No. 8)
4Furiant in A minor (Series 2, No. 1)
5Polka in G minor, Op. 8 No. 2 (from Three Poetic Polkas)
6Polka, 1843: Memories of Plzeň
7 Písen Lásky (Love Song), Op. 7, No. 1 (1893)
8 Umoreska, Op.7, No. 2 (1893)
Josef Suk: Mother, Op. 28 (1907)
9When Mother was still a little girl. Allegretto molto moderato
10Once in springtime. Adagio
11Once in springtime. Adagio
12Mother's heart. Andante sostenuto
Oldřich Korte: Piano Sonata 14
14 Maestoso. Allegretto grazioso
15 Molto grave
Format: CD-DDD, ADD
American Record Guide
The music is mostly off the beaten track. Moravec's playing is absolutely gorgeous. His touch in the six Smetana miniatures is breathtakingly light and varied. It makes one wonder why more international pianists don't include them in their recitals...
Classical Music Web
The Smetana A Minor Polka is played with lilting affection and with a flexibility of rubato that never slides into the flaccid. The piece has a simple but not simplistic melodic appeal and Moravec can either glitteringly harden his tone when necessary or bathe passages in half-lights of almost spectral beauty. He catches the delicacy and the dreaminess of Hulan (The Lancer) from the 1879 Czech Dances laced as it is with something of the nostalgia of Schumann.
His O Matince displays a wealth of characteristic virtues... he is significantly fleeter and less dreamy than Slovak pianist Marian Lapsansky on a rival disc for example. In the first of the cycle of five he eschews sentimentality and promotes instead a simple gravity of utterance; the adagio has a surging, verdant freshness to it, its slight air of melancholy subsumed into the patina of Moravec’s lyricism... Moravec never draws attention to the programmatic nature... but instead lets the music grow from within; in the last piece, Remembrance, he is by turns, and wholly sensitively, agitated, sonorous, veiled and regretful.
The disc has been beautifully transferred and enshrines yet more testimony to Moravec’s exalted status amongst contemporary musicians.
...This Supraphon reissue conflates a live recital with the pianist's magnificent early 60s reading of Suk's suite About Mother ... one of the most touching pieces of music ever written, and Moravec understands the value of understatement, finding a thousand subtle colors in the work's elegiac lyricism. ...nothing better demonstrates Moravec's keyboard wizardry, his ability to find profundity in simplicity, than the six dances by Smetana that open the disc... Now, will someone please just set up the microphones and let this man record whatever he wants.
...Wie sehr sein Herz an der Heimat hängt, demonstriert die CD mit tschechischen Komponisten: herrlich ausgelassen die Tänze Smetanas, intensiv, ja tielweise beklemmend die Gefühlsästhetik von Josef Suk, dramatisch die Sonate von Korte. Diese Aufnahmen machen unmissvertändlich deutlich, wie weit Moravec, der mehr an der Vermittlung von Musik arbeitet als an der Vermarktung seiner Person, selbst vom Gros der besten Pianisten entfernt ist.
HBDirect Critic's Choice rating
These welcome reissues from the Supraphon vaults offer music lovers the chance to hear Ivan Moravec in recordings from 1962 and 1984. The quality of the live concert tracks (Smetana and Korte) are as fine as the excellent studio recording of the charming Suk works.
In assembling his programme for a recital or a recording of works by Czech composers the concert pianist certainly has a good deal of repertoire from which to choose; his final selection need depend only on his own artistic taste and personality. The Czech piano music tradition goes back to the [ninetheenth] century, when Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884) produced works for the instrument with a decidedly national feel about them, in keeping with the spirit of an era that saw the culmination of the Czechs’ National Revival and of their struggle for cultural emancipation. Smetana also takes credit for having created a Czech national music that is based upon the use of the national dance - the polka - and it might well be claimed that the characteristic rhythm of that dance finds its way in a variety of forms into almost all of the composer’s more substantial works. The large number of polkas that Smetana produced for the piano, however, form a chapter unto themselves, and they may be arranged in a hierarchy of groups according to the degree to which each of them carries the process of musical stylization.
The first, most basic group comprises pieces that were actually intended to accompany dance and were inspired by the huge demand for such music created by the flourishing national social life of the day; it includes Memories of Plsen, composed around the year 1843. The Polka in G minor, however, one of a set of three pieces appropriately entitled Poetic Polkas, belongs to the next group up in the hierarchy. Here the player can give free rein to his interpretative imagination whilst also enlarging the expressive gamut of the music through various subtle nuances of tempo.
If the G minor polka is, in a certain sense, analogous in Smetana’s output to the mazurkas of Chopin, then the Polka in A minor from the Czech Dances is reminiscent rather of the latter’s polonaises. It turns the traditional folk dance into something quite monumental, removing it onto the highest aesthetic plane and making of it a poem in music that, from its hushed beginnings, undergoes a dramatic build-up to a climax of heroic proportions, only to fade away again in an atmosphere of quiet brooding.
The A minor polka is one of four polkas that go to make up the first part of a large cycle of piano pieces with the rather modest collective title Czech Dances. They date from the year 1877, whilst the remaining ten numbers in the cycle were composed two years later. In Hulán (The Lancer) Smetana transforms a graceful folk melody in two variations of wonderfully stylized sound and technique; in the Obkrocák (‘straddle dance’) he develops a boldly exuberant melody of elemental temperament in a most dazzling fashion; and in the Furiant he uses the entire range of the keyboard to achieve a stunningly effective piece in which virtuosity is not, nonetheless, an end in itself but rather serves to complement and reinforce the brilliantly imaginative musical content.
In Josef Suk (1874-1935) - born precisely fifty years after Bedrich Smetana - Czech music has an artist of a quite different sort, although Suk’s musical imagination does stem, nonetheless, from the subjectivism prevalent in his day. His teacher, none other than Antonin Dvorák, had been persuaded of the young musician’s genius back in 1892 upon seeing his Serenade for Strings, opus 6, and in the following year Suk composed six piano pieces that were assembled by an editor into a less than perfectly organic whole under the opus number 7. The first of these pieces, the Love Song, immediately became celebrated the world over, as had been the case before that with Dvorák’s Humoresque and Fibich’s Poem.
The five movements of Suk’s piano cycle Mother, op. 28- subtitled Simple piano pieces dedicated to my son - form an intimately lyrical counterpart to the five movements of Asrael, the symphony that Suk composed whilst mourning the death of Antonin Dvorák and of the latter’s daughter, Otylka, who was also Suk’s own beloved wife. After the symphony, which is full of rending cries of despair and the very deepest resignation, the composer now paints for his own son a thoroughly tender and loving picture of the mother that the boy has lost. The first two pieces depict her as a young girl and the third is a beautiful lullaby with a meaningful bass pedal running throughout the whole, whilst the movement that follows, entitled Mother’s Heart, brings tears to the listener’s eyes when, at its close, he hears the last beating of her sick heart described by musical means of the greatest simplicity which, for that very reason, are most shatteringly powerful in their effect. The last of the five pieces constitutes a catharsis of remembrance to round off this cycle, which, with its mood of profound tragedy, a tragedy shifted here into the spiritual world of the young child, is surely without parallel in the entire piano repertoire.
Despite the quantity and variety of music of which it is otherwise able to boast, after Vitézslav Novák’s beautiful Sonata eroica of 1900 the Czech piano repertoire was to be kept waiting for more than fifty years before it was supplemented with another two works of similarly great stature. The piano sonatas composed by Oldrich F. Korte (born 1926) during the years 1951-1953 and by Bohuslav Martinu three years later are undoubtedly among the very best works produced for the piano in this century. Whilst Oldrich Korte had gained a name for himself whilst still a conservatory student (with his Symfonietta), the Sonata for Piano consitutes another huge step forwards on that path towards his compositional ideal of a “timeless musical language”, an ideal that was to achieve full realization in such later masterpieces as the orchestral drama A Tale of Flutes, the Concerto grosso and the Philosophical Dialogues. The sonata, however, already incorporates all those elements that go to make Korte’s musical oeuvre as a whole so communicative and appealing. Vigorously contemporary as regards its musical language, it is also captivating in its dynamism and in its wealth of musical ideas, neatly compact within its two-movement structure and, last but not least, dazzling - yet not ostentatious - in its virtuosity.