This will be quite a discovery for those who know the music of Bedrich Smetana only through his grand and nationalistic cycle of tone-poems, Ma Vlast, even if they are yet familiar with his more painfully intimate string quartets or his folkloristic operas. For Smetana, like most composers, needed to eat; and to do so he was happy to make his own contribution towards satisfying the seemingly insatiable appetite of the bourgeois 19th-century public for piano music that they could perform at home. Music of no great difficulty but boundless charm, these miniatures are now seldom heard and even less often recorded, and this is a shame, for works such as the Op.3 Characteristic Pieces show how the pianistic extroversion of Brahms and Liszt (who was a great admirer and supporter of the young Smetana, giving him valuable introductions to publishers) could be adapted to a domestic context, and with the particular inflection of Czech and Bohemian character, derived not only from simple and song-like melodies but also irregularly stressed dance-rhythms that the young Italian pianist Roberto Plano relishes to the full on this welcome new survey. As Plano himself remarks in the booklet notes for the release, the late works embody all the sincerity and essential poetry of the composer’s style, all the more treasurable for their emergence against the odds as Smetana battled with deafness and the mental illness that would cut short his life.
- Recorded in 2013.
- This new recording shows another side of Smetana the great symphonist, composer of Ma Vlast and large scale operas. His piano music, though by no means “simple”, breathes the air of the Bohemian countryside: dance forms and poetic characterisations, romantic album leaves and melancholy tone paintings.
- Beautifully played by Italian pianist Roberto Plano, prize winner of several international competitions (Van Cliburn Competition), perfectly capturing the mood and atmosphere of this charming and attractive music.
- “This Italian pianist showed artistic maturity beyond his years… there was a wonderful clarity and control of inner voices in his performances.” (Anthony Tomassini, New York Times).