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Graceful panache

Listening to Dvorák arrangements -

'... effective and highly accomplished.'

Dvorák: Music for Violin and Piano Vol 2. Qian Zhou, Edmund Battersby. © 2001 HNH International Ltd

In a disc made up mainly of arrangements, Dvorák's Mazurek of 1879 stands out as an original piece of graceful panache. It was written for Pablo Sarasate, who coaxed concertos out of Bruch, Lalo (and the incomparable Symphonie espagnole), Saint-Saëns and Wieniawski. Dvorák's violin concerto was dedicated to Joachim, who never played it publicly, and Sarasate had to be content with this entrancing Mazurek (Silesian for Mazurka). The piece somehow manages to be Spanish in honour of the violinist, Polish because of its characteristic dance rhythm, and Bohemian since Dvorák could never be otherwise [listen -- track 6, 0:00-1:02]. The D minor Ballad was also composed for this medium and begins in almost obsessive gloom. The middle section, though, has a fiery energy before reverting to the initial dumps [listen -- track 1, 2:51-4:03]. A piece that should be of equal interest is a Capriccio that Dvorák did not publish. He revised it in 1892, but the version on the CD was made by Günther Raphael, who was not always respectful towards Dvorák's score. The result is a virtuoso piece that manages to be brilliant and at the same time empty.

Dvorák himself arranged 'Silent Woods' from a set of keyboard pieces for piano duet, From the Bohemian Forest. The original had such evocative titles as 'By the Black Lake', 'Witches' Sabbath', and 'In Troubled Times'. But Dvorák's arrangement was for cello and piano. It goes well enough on the violin, and the middle section has particular charm [listen -- track 5, 2:16-3:19]. Dvorák was also responsible for the Nocturne, which had a total of three incarnations. It began as the Andante religioso slow movement for an early String Quartet in E minor. It was next adapted as an Intermezzo for string quintet, second movement in the G major work published by Simrock without the Intermezzo but boasting 77 as a misleadingly high opus number. The Nocturne itself has a firmer grip on reality as Op 40.

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Copyright © 11 December 2002 Robert Anderson, London, UK


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