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Marko TAJCEVIC (1900-1984)
Seven Balkan Dances (1926); Five Preludes (1935); Songs from Mur Island (1938); Sonatina (1923); Serbian Dances (1937); Variations on a Theme in C minor (1948); For Children (1938); Sonatina (c. 1947); Two Little Suites (1937); For the Young (1935); Six Miniatures (1920); Music Box (1930)
Radmila Stojanovic-Kiriluk (piano)
rec. January 2004, Omni Classic Recording Studio, Tempe, Arizona
TOCCATA TOCC0041 [79:13]

Experience Classicsonline

Toccata Classics are a constant reproach to critics of the labels condemned for their allegiance to crossover and mainstream. They call our bluff and do it with panache and intellectual polish. Their choice of repertoire is freewheeling, their performers are adepts and their documentation is second to none.

So it is with this disc featuring the complete piano music of Marx and Springer pupil, the Croatian composer Marko Tajčević. Toccata's Martin Anderson has always been a fantastically well informed scout for new composer opportunities. As expected, his judgement proves unerring here too. Radmila Stojanović-Kiriluk tackles these short and generally smiling short pieces with an imaginative skirl and deftly spun nationalism.

The collections For Children, Seven Balkan Dances and Serbian Dances are very much in the folksy, dance-rustic and disarming genre tackled by Kirsten Johnson on her two Guild discs of Balkan piano solos (review review). You can also catch sympathetic echoes of Skalkottas's Greek Dances among the sixty short tracks on this disc. The Five Preludes are more dramatic-romantic in the Rachmaninov pattern as are some of the Six Miniatures. The Agitato Prelude in particular recalls Rachmaninov's Third Concerto. The Songs from Mur Island, Little Suites and For the Young return us to an engaging playground innocence - more Kenge flavour. There's a particularly lovely landscape evocation in the Andantino cantabile (tr. 22). The 1923 and 1947 The Sonatinas have a singing and plangent pastoralism rather like a slightly shallower version of John Ireland's On a May Morning and Amberley Wild Brooks. There's also a very romantic and touching Andante sostenuto. The C minor Variations are the latest piece here and at 11.47 also the largest. It's earnest and in a style caught in amber between Brahms and Grieg. It has only the lightest dusting of pastoral innocence. The Tabatiere Music Box inhabits a delicately chiming sugar-plum realm.

The disc could hardly be more fully filled. There are good notes but nothing about Tajčević's other music except a dismissive connotation that it is inferior to these miniatures.

These are engaging piano solos and they are ripe for exploration - smiling jewels but not trifles.

Rob Barnett 

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