CD and Other Review

Review: Smetana: Czech Dances & On the seashore

Any release by American pianist Garrick Ohlsson is guaranteed to delight and this new one of Smetana’s Czech Dances Books Nos 1 and 2 does not disappoint. Ohlsson is at home with these charming works, meeting their virtuosic challenges with aplomb.Smetana wanted to do for the Czech polka what Chopin did for the Polish mazurka and the four works which open the album show that his aim to “idealise” the form and push the boundaries succeeded admirably. As one of today’s leading Chopin interpreters Ohlsson is on top form here. Smetana lived his final years in a gamekeeper’s lodge where he befriended an amateur fiddler who showed him Bohemian and Moravian folk tunes and dances.The resulting 10 pieces may not have had the success of Dvorˇák’s dances but they were greatly admired. Slepicka (The Little Hen), is probably the best known of them. Oves (Oats) is a gentle piece while Medved (The Bear) has all the lumbering quality of Mussorgsky’s oxen in Pictures from an Exhibition.The Little Onion, an unpromising title perhaps, is full of lyrical appeal and Dupák, a stamping dance, is terrific fun. Hulán (The lancer) is full of longing and Obkrocak, a stepping dance, recalls the tune…

October 13, 2016