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Eduard NÁPRAVNÍK (1839-1916)
Violin Sonata in G major, Op. 52 (1890) [35:10]
Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 60 (1896) [31:24]
Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 64 (1898) [19:51]
Lana Trotovšek (violin), Ludmil Angelov (piano)
rec. 2017, Union Hall, Partizanska, Maribor, Slovenia

As I wrote when reviewing a disc of his trios (review), Czech-born Eduard Nápravník, like so many of his confrčres, ended up in St Petersburg where the Russian Schools, an amalgam of native Russian, Czech and Hungarian teaching, thrived during the nineteenth-century and beyond.

The three violin works in this disc are touted as world premiere recordings. That may well be true of the Opp. 60 and 64 pieces but it’s not true of the Violin Sonata which was recorded years ago on Melodiya LP by Grigory Feigin, that excellent player who left behind a much-loved LP recording of Myaskovsky’s Violin Concerto and one of whose Russian Disc CD I have reviewed here – neither sported this particular sonata but you can hear it on YouTube. The sonata is an attractive work, but not overtly emotive even in the Andantino doloroso. There’s much ingenious writing, quite a lot for the orchestrally-minded piano but also for the graceful violin lines too. With peals and lyricism, the opening sostenuto fares well here but the Scherzo is the sonata’s most entertaining movement, varied with vitality, a songful lied that contrasts with a village dance, the music rocking back and forth between these states with lullaby-like beauty. There’s some Russian colour in the slow movement and a straightforward, energetic but not especially distinctive finale. Violinist Lana Trotovšek and Ludmil Angelov play this well but there are times when she is close to being drowned by the pianist and her focused but small tone doesn’t inflect the music with much in the way of real romantic fervour. Turn to Feigin, with pianist Viktor Poltoratsky, for all that.

The Suite was composed in 1896, six years after the sonata. The first of the four pieces is a passacaglia-like, serious-minded and solemn affair, followed by a powerfully volatile scherzo replete with calmly suave B section. Attractive but deigning to plumb depths comes an Elegie, and the suite ends with a virtuoso and playful Tarantella. Two years later he wrote the Four Pieces, Op.64 which forms a character-led series of works, warmly textured, or attractively steeped in the melodic impress of his adopted country – not a frequent element of the Czech composer’s chamber music. The concluding Scherzo espagnol looks rather more to Schumann than to Iberia.

This is a splendidly complete disc lasting no fewer than 86 minutes and the booklet essay is fine. Value for money is assured. Value for artistry? Harder to say, really. Nápravník’s music is never less than attractive but seldom truly inspired. It takes a healthily equipped performance to draw every ounce of feeling from it, as Feigin does in the sonata. Here, the balance is skewed rather to the piano and the performance never really quite convinces. The Suite and the Four Pieces offer better balances and performances, but the music is more generic.

Jonathan Woolf

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