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fascinating masterclass and recital


During his recent UK tour in February 2003, the distinguished Czech pianist Radoslav Kvapil gave an impressive St James' Piccadilly recital, preceded by a masterclass at the Royal Academy of Music, organised by the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe in association with the JMI Forum for Suppressed Music, as part of their series on 'Beethoven and Suppressed Composers'.

Radoslav Kvapil's recital at St James's Piccadilly on 19 February attracted a large audience to enjoy memorable interpretations of Ullmann, Beethoven, Janácek and Smetana. Kvapil has the distinction of having recorded the complete piano works of major Czech composers including Dvorák, Smetana, Janácek, Martinu and Suk. Another specialism is the music of Viktor Ullmann, the Terezin composer, whose seven sonatas he has played and recorded, on several labels (that of the last three sonatas, released only recently on Praga-Digitals). It was thus apt to begin with Ullman's sixth sonata, the penultimate sonata completed in Terezin, where Ullmann had arrived early in 1944, and where he composed his famous satirical opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis, and from where he was tragically deported to Auschwitz in October, along with fellow composers Gidon Klein and Hans Krasa.

A continuous multi-section movement, the sonata began with explosive impetus, developing to a remarkably powerful fugue leading to a serene slow section. The variegated textures were breathtaking as the work drew to its Scherzo-esque conclusion, Kvapil's control of fibrile textures, dissonant, cluster harmonies and passages of quiet introspection coloured with impressionistic delicacy. It was an almost orchestrally coloured performance which brought out both the twin influences of Schoenberg's 2nd Viennese School combined with Janácek and the Czech tradition.

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Copyright © 18 March 2003 Malcolm Miller, London, UK


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