Who better to present a recital of a composer’s music than an artist who studied with him? Rudolf Firkusny began his musical career under the tutelage of Leos Janacek, which gives his interpretation of Janacek’s solo piano works special significance.
All of Janacek’s major works for the instrument are present: Piano Sonata 1.X.1905, On an Overgrown Path, and In the Mists. It’s difficult to say exactly how, but Firkusny’s playing seems imminently suited to these works. Just as Czech orchestra can make Dvorak sparkle in a way that seems elude ensembles from other countries, so to does Janacek’s music benefit from the touch of a sympathetic countryman.
It’s clear that Firkusny understands Janacek’s music and it’s likely he discussed the finer points of interpretation with the composer. The folk-inspired passages sound forthright and simple, while the more complex develop organically. Janacek relied heavily on the cumulative dramatic effect of short phrases and motifs, and Firkusny delivers them with a sure hands. He knows how to draw the connections between the musical thoughts to present a cohesive whole.
With most other performers, Janacek’s music seems to me beautiful, yet static. In these performances Firkusny imbues them with a sense of forward motion that’s leading to an inevitable climax. These recordings were originally released on RCA Red Seal over a decade ago. Newton Classics provides a real service by making them available again. The remastering is flawless, and never gets in the way of the original recordings.
Leos Janacek: Piano Works
Rudolph Firkusny, piano