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Jan Vaclav VORISEK (1791-1825)
Piano Works
Sonata quasi una fantasia in B flat minor, Op 20
Six Variations in B flat major Op 19
Fantasia in C major, Op 12
Six Impromptus Op 7

Olga Tverskaya (piano)
OPUS 111 OPS 30241 [77.02] (DDD)
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Can I deal with my one reservation first?

I don't like the piano used here. It is a fortepiano by David Winston after a 1823 Broadmann. I find its tone off-putting, particularly in the upper register. To my taste, it lacks colour.

I have liked the music of Jan Vaclav Vorisek since the time I was asked to conduct his Symphony in D. He was born in Bohemia in 1791 the year of Mozart's death and died of consumption in 1825 at the age of 35, the same age as Mozart.

He was a very clever man having studied law, philosophy and mathematics and was a civil servant.

The Piano Sonata is very important. Surprisingly for its time it is in a remote key. Its other influence is the great Beethoven and one of the many qualities is that Vorisek does not overblow his sonata as did Schubert in his last sonatas. It is a serious work but not a crushing one. I would have preferred the opening movement to be more con brio but the piano tone may have a lot to do with this. The scherzo needed a little more fire. The finale is another con brio but it more felicitous than brilliant. Middle Beethoven is here the influence.

The Variations in B flat is a work of devotion and affection. They were dedicated to Rosalie Haupt and you may read between the lines. The theme is a minuet and conjures up the intimacy of that dance. It has a charm and elegance. Does it represent Rosalie? The first variation could be coquettish. And so I could continue but you be the musical detective! The finale is especially good. But listen to the variations with the left hand trills and then consider Chopin and his famous funeral march!

Vorisek's Fantasy in C dates from 1822, Schubert's from 1816. Is there a connection? Schubert based his work on one of his songs. Vorisek's work is more introspective and original.

Vorisek's Impromptus were written in 1822, Schubert's set, known as D935, were written in 1827 to follow the set written earlier that year. Schubert was probably copying Vorisek but extending the length of his own Impromptus in line with his arrogant attitude that he could write bigger and better pieces. Anything you can do, I can do better! Of course, that simply is not true! Vorisek's work is more technically satisfying. Can one occasionally hear Liszt?

Vorisek's Impromptus are arranged in the sequence of rising fifths. They are akin to Schubert in that they are lightweight with the ländler and the waltz prominent. The final Impromptu is in B major and wanders into G sharp minor.

An important disc and very welcome. The performances are generally very good. I have doubts about the piano but that is a personal matter. Not all the pieces are stunning. The Impromptus did nothing for me ... but the Sonata is important.

David Wright

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