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Leos Janacek: A Recollection

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Performer: Andras Schiff
  • Composer: Leos Janacek
  • Audio CD (19 Dec. 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM New Series
  • ASIN: B000059X1W
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 240,017 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. In the mist
  2. Piano Sonata, 1.X.1905
  3. On an overgrown path
  4. A recollection

Product Description

Product Description

Hungarian-born pianist András Schiff occupies a prominent position amongst the world's most distinguished musicians, acclaimed for his profound and inspired interpretations in recital, concerto and chamber music performance and recording. This is the great pianist's first recital recording of Janácek's piano music. Schiff's concert performances of this material have stunned the public and the critics. As Bradley Bambarger noted recently in Billboard, "One of the most powerfully poetic displays of pianism I've ever witnessed was András Schiff holding a BBC proms crowd rapt with Janácek's 'Sonata I.X.1905' in London's huge Royal Albert Hall".

Schiff was drawn to Janácek's piano music by what he feels are affinities with Bartók, and the "story-telling" piano pieces chosen by Schiff for this recital have the timeless appeal of Bartók's "Mikrokosmos". As journalist Rob Cowan notes, "No matter how many times you listen to these gems, the sum effect of emotional engagement, wonderment and love of life is as lasting as one's admiration for the music's miniaturist construction. They are truly 'the world in a grain of sand'."

András Schiff made his ECM debut in 1999 with the widely acclaimed Music for Two Pianos with Peter Serkin: voted Classic FM Magazine 'CD of the Month' and BBC Music Magazine 'Album-of-the-Year'. His recording of the Schubert Fantasies was Gramophone Editor's Choice and Critics' Choice of 2000.

Recorded 2000

Personnel:
András Schiff, piano

Amazon.co.uk

It is pianist András Schiff's near total identification with Janácek's idiom that makes these performances so special. This affinity is felt immediately in his reading of In the Mists, in which Schiff is able to evoke the tranquillity of the second movement as easily as he captures the folk-like simplicity of the third. The date 1.X.1905 in the title of the Piano Sonata refers to the date of the shooting of a Czech worker by Hapsburg troops. The first movement, marked Presentiment, is spookily atmospheric whilst the chilling second movement, The Death, leaves a powerful impression. Schiff demonstrates exemplary control so that the effect is peaceful rather than meandering. On an Overgrown Path is Janácek at his most concentrated: in particular, the very Czech lachrymose quality of In Tears is all the more powerful for its simplicity. Janácek's chosen range of keyboard sonorities is remarkably wide and Schiff manages to use these to convey the full emotional spectrum. Although these performances do not displace Firkusny's for DG, they certainly offer an entirely convincing alternative viewpoint. ECM's exemplary recording sets the seal on this recommendation. --Colin Clarke

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Janacek's piano music is an area of the keyboard repertoire perhaps surprisingly underexplored by today's great pianists. This is a shame, as Andras Schiff shows in his interesting engagement with the composer in his latest recording for ECM. As in his recent forays into Bartok, Dvorak and Smetana, Schiff's love of the Bohemian flavours that infuse Janacek's keyboard writing shines through in his current offering. The Sonata and 'In the Mists' are played with a sense of profound mystery and an aching longing that is beautifully brought out in the folk-song like melodies of the slower movements. Best of all, the miniatures of 'On an Overgrown Path', which are taken at a slower pace than one sometimes hears, are vividly and thoughtfully characterised. To my ear, however, Schiff's attention to detail sometimes has a downside on this current recording, which reveals itself here in a degree of fastidiousness, a certain lack of spontaneity that can be heard more than once. But that should not detract overly from what is another fine disc.
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Format: Audio CD
I'm afraid I dislike this performance intensely. This is some of the most original and most moving music of the 20th century. Janacek's music has a character that is identifiable within just a few bars, be it piano solo or opera. In fact you sometimes forget which instrument you are listening to: the music has a life of it's own. The problem is that Schiff is trying so hard to be original that he loses this character - and this sense of life. He loses the whole point of the music. The lilt, the unevenness - the human quality. All this gets obscured in a rather soporific haze. I don't doubt his sincerity, and his interpretation may work for you. Each to his own. But there are so many other decent recordings out there. If you can only afford one, this really isn't it.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Wonderful music alternating between lyrical and mysterious perfectly matched to a performance that is relentlessly sensitive to nuance and shape. Cannot recommend too highly. Another masterfully interpretation that rightly favours artistry even more highly than technique.
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Format: Audio CD
To get right to the point, I'd like to point devotees of Janacek's "In the Mist" and "On an Overgrown Path" to another, more recent CD that I think is better: Slavka Pechocova on the Praga label. Schiff's approach is not unbeautiful, and is aided by a wonderful sounding recording, but it seems to me rather plain and straightforward ("Janacek with no bite," as another reviewer here put it). Comparing Pechocova's "In the Mist" to Schiff's shows that Ms. Pechocova brings out a wider range of dynamic--and dramatic--contrasts; Schiff doesn't seem as well connected to the idiom of the work as she does, focusing instead on elegant pianism in a cautious way, with phrasing that is neat and well laid-out but not tremendously expressive. In the second movement of "Mists," Schiff's staccato handling of certain phrases sounds not only "precious" but downright silly; in the same passages, Pechocova employs the pedal and shows how they are one with the atmosphere of mystery and reminiscence that the composer began in the first movement. The sound quality of her recording, made several years after Schiff's, is to my ears also slightly better and is really just about ideal. I was very happy to find her release, the first I've found that satisfied me as being as good as the one by Lamar Crowson that was later released on the EMI "Matrix" series.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x915064e0) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90eababc) out of 5 stars Heart over Head 11 April 2005
By dm - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Firkusny studied with Janacek...almost all reviewers agree that his interpretation is truest to Janacek's intent. Yet in head-to-head listenings, it's the Schiff performance that I prefer.

I find the Firkusny performance to be clinical and dry as compared to Schiff, who is more lyrical and poetic. Firkusny may be playing it how Janacek intended, but musicians are artists and are free to interpret a piece any way they like. For this piece, I choose Schiff's interpretation.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91b66234) out of 5 stars Lovely, Dark, and Deep 20 July 2002
By D. R. Greenfield - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
It's late November and you're walking out in the woods. There's a crisp coolness underfoot and in the air. And you've just lost a dear friend to time and circumstance....
That is the type of Recollection which this music evokes for me. The excellent liner notes by Imre Kertesz and Robert Cowan refer to how each one of these evocative pieces is like a short story; each contains its own inner world: the "world in a grain of sand." There is the same mystical element present that one encounters in Arvo Part's music, but there is an impressionistic element as well, more lyrical than Debussy, and more emotional.
The magnificent two-movement Sonate (1.X.1905) is easily the highlight of the album. It was written to commemorate a protesting Czech student executed on that date by German troops. The second movement (entitled simply, "Death") still has, as the liner notes aptly say, "the power to shock." There is an existential element to this music, that "poses the eternally unanswered and unanswerable question of the human condition" (Kertesz).
In response to another reviewer who has stated that the recording's sound quality is lacking: I have listened to this recording on my car's cd player, and there it does sound rather like too much of an echo is present. But on my home stereo system, with quality speakers and subwoofer, the slight echo actually enhances the haunting quality of this music. It is, for me, that echo, that silencio between the notes, that makes this music and this performance, unforgettable.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91cc3ab8) out of 5 stars A classic 29 Oct. 2010
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
In my view, Janacek's piano music comprise some of the most marvelous music ever written for the piano. The Sonata 1.X.1905 has acquired a place in the standard repertoire, but the rest - including the magnificent In the Mist - is less often heard (though several fine recorded versions certainly exist). I do not think, for instance, that there exists a more breathtakingly beautiful, stirring and atmospheric collection of character pieces than the collection "On an overgrown path" (including the marvelous Paralipomena). But it needs an interpreter who understands the musical language and who is able to realize all the nuances and shades this music can conjure up.

Enter Andras Schiff; while he does not displace Firkusny that is mostly because their approaches are so different as to be complimentary, the performances here are fully idiomatic, detailed and stirring. "On an Overgrown Path" is variegated, flexible and unpredictable in terms of moods and mood shifts, sufficiently so to become truly haunting; the Sonate is stirringly restless and makes a unique impact, and In the Mist is graceful and poignant in an almost otherworldly manner resembling no other auditory experience. ECM's engineering is dazzling, even though the piano sound becomes almost over-resplendent at times (perhaps there is a little too much reverberance). In any case, this is a classic, and completely unmissable
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x915057ec) out of 5 stars wonderful music 12 Oct. 2013
By Alex - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is definitely a "must have" cd for piano lovers. The music and interpretation is just marvelous. I've tried playing "In the Mist" and I must admit, the quirkiness of the harmonies and the quick transitions between modal and diatonic scales has been an obstacle, but it is so rewarding when you can play the music of this master. The slow third movement is one of the most beautiful I've heard anywhere. The Hungarian and diminished scales that he uses which are juxtaposed on typical classical and Romantic harmonies make his music so appealing. And Andras Schiff doesn't overplay or muddle the harmonies. They are vibrant, distinct, full of rapture and wonder, and I would definitely vote this as the piano CD of the year.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90eb093c) out of 5 stars Straightforward, plain Janacek - better choices available 6 Dec. 2013
By Long-Time Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
To get right to the point, I'd like to point devotees of Janacek's "In the Mist" and "On an Overgrown Path" to another, more recent CD that I think is better: Slavka Pechocova on the Praga label. Schiff's approach is not unbeautiful, and is aided by a wonderful sounding recording, but it seems to me rather plain and straightforward ("Janacek with no bite," as another reviewer here put it). Comparing Pechocova's "In the Mist" to Schiff's shows that Ms. Pechocova brings out a wider range of dynamic--and dramatic--contrasts; Schiff doesn't seem as well connected to the idiom of the work as she does, focusing instead on elegant pianism in a cautious way, with phrasing that is neat and well laid-out but not tremendously expressive. In the second movement of "Mists," Schiff's staccato handling of certain phrases sounds not only "precious" but downright silly; in the same passages, Pechocova employs the pedal and shows how they are one with the atmosphere of mystery and reminiscence that the composer began in the first movement. The sound quality of her recording, made several years after Schiff's, is to my ears also slightly better and is really just about ideal. I was very happy to find her release, the first I've found that satisfied me as being as good as the one by Lamar Crowson that was later released on the EMI "Matrix" series.
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