Bedřich Smetana was a poet, dramatist, dancer, polyphonist and virtuoso!Print
Jitka Čechová is one of the most distinct Czech pianists of the present time. She plays with the Smetana Trio yet concurrently pursues a soloist path too. She is known as a champion, as well as an outstanding performer, of Bedřich Smetana’s music. Since October 2005, she has been recording the composer’s complete piano works, with the penultimate part of this unique collection scheduled for imminent release. To mark the occasion, we asked Jitka Čechová a few questions.
The sixth part of the cycle of recordings mapping Bedřich Smetana’s piano oeuvre (SU 3846-2) features his pieces dating from the 1840s and initiates us into the period of his intensive music studies and the outset of the composer’s independent artistic career. What kind of music can the listener look forward to?
The album’s pivotal work is the cycle of Six morceaux caractéristiques, Op. 1, which is supplemented by pieces created in the same period. The extensive array is rounded off by the Stammbuchblätter (Album Leaves), which form a constant part of Smetana’s oeuvre in all periods. Presented in premiere is the newly discovered Erinnerung an Weimar (Memory of Weimar). Virtuosic compositions are represented by two works: the Mendelssohn-style Allegro capriccioso and a fragment of the Caprice in G minor. Smetana’s affinity to poeticism and admiration for Schumannesque and Chopinesque lyricism is manifested by the Woodland Feelings and Impressions, Romanza in B flat major, Morceau caractéristique and Pensée fugitive. The disc concludes with two marches reflecting the atmosphere of the revolutionary 1848, a year Smetana lived through with immense intensity.
The most significant work on the album is the cycle Six morceaux caractéristiques, Op. 1. Smetana sent the autograph to Liszt, who accepted its being dedicated to him with pleasure. How do you perceive this piece?
It is Bedřich Smetana’s first six-part cyclical piece. He liked dividing works into six sections, and he applied this approach not only in his mature piano cycle Dreams but also in the cycle of symphonic poems My Country. In this part, he also demonstrates a spectrum of compositional skills. Individual compositions really do characteristically present Smetana as a poet, dramatist, dancer, polyphonist and virtuoso.
You are preparing a final album to round off the set of recordings of the complete Bedřich Smetana piano works. Rumour has it that you intend to celebrate the event with a concert performance at the Rudolfinum…
The final album will cover the period of Smetana’s studies with Josef Proksch. As is the case of all the previous titles, this one too will foreground one major work – this time it will be the extensive four-movement Sonata in G minor. The other pieces will include the Variations on the Theme of the Song “I Sowed Millet” and a few minor compositions. In this phase of his life, Smetana wrote hundreds of exercise works and studied polyphony, with the result many a time being incredibly complicated polyphonic fugues in various forms. Yet the purpose of this recording is not to release etudes – Smetana himself wouldn’t have liked the idea – but to present this creative period of his by means of a narrow selection of the finest compositions.
I will round off the eight years of exploring Bedřich Smetana’s piano works with a concert marking the 190th anniversary of his birth. It will take place on 10 March 2014 at the Rudolfinum. Within the evening, I will present various aspects of our national composer’s work. The performance will be a dignified and symbolic celebration of the completion of the seven-part set of recordings I will have made with Supraphon.