WORKS FOR VIOLIN & PIANO
Silvie Hessová (vn); Daniel Wiesner (pn)
CUBE BOHEMIA 2423 (58:23)
From My Homeland.
Four Pieces for Violin and Piano.
Sonata for Violin and Piano
Silvie Hessová, born in 1969, is a relatively young Czech violinist whose debut album,
was issued in 2002. A pupil of Karel Pribyl at the Prague Conservatory, she also studied with members of the Amadeus Quartet in London. Pianist Daniel Wiesner, born the same year, is also a graduate of the Prague Conservatory, where he studied with Valentina Kamenikova, and the Prague Music Academy, where he studied with Peter Toperczer (this according to the liner notes). Both violinist and pianist have performed together numerous times, and there is a quote in the booklet—not attributed to either musician specifically—that “Our friendship and mutual artistic understanding have been a real inspiration to both of us.”
Judging from this CD, Hessová’s third, the pair certainly do work well together. They play this repertoire in the typically modern clean, brisk style that is acceptable as a world standard for chamber players without necessarily distinguishing them as individualist interpreters. Everything is clean, fleet, and well modulated. Every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed. They also display a wonderful sense of élan in the faster passages of Smetana’s
From My Homeland,
but somehow a real Czech flair or accent to the playing is missing. By comparison, listen to the way Bronislaw Huberman played it (second movement only, somewhat truncated, an off-the-air performance from October 1942) or the various recordings by Vaša Prihoda (DG historic), Josef Suk (two versions, early and late on Supraphon), and James Ehnes on Analekta. These performances really capture the Bohemian swagger of the rhythms. Hessová’s performance sounds much more smoothed-out and cosmopolitan by comparison; perhaps this is something she picked up from the Amadeus Quartet.
The duo’s performance of the Dvořák
is similarly well phrased, continental in style, and possesses a lovely floating quality that suits the music admirably, but is also similarly uniform in tone quality and phrasing, making it undistinguishable from a multitude of competing versions.
In making these comments, however, I do not wish to give the impression that Hessová’s playing is featureless. On the contrary, it is quite good; she makes a strong impression in the “Appassionata” movement of Suk’s Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, for instance; but it’s just a generic sort of style that doesn’t register as “Czech” in accent or phrasing. They could just as easily be played by an American or Chinese violinist with no specific knowledge of or grounding in Czech musical culture, and I want to hear something more authentically flavorful in this music. I did detect a Czech flavor, along with very impassioned playing, in the first movement of the Janáček Violin Sonata, but afterwards we are back to a professional yet generic performance style.
I should also point out that Hessová is not alone in her clean-but-generic approach to this music. Pianist Wiesner is a clean but remarkably unpersonable pianist; nothing he plays sounds terribly interesting, even though he, too, hits all the notes and has a very clean, continental style.
In short, a good recording but not a special one.
Lynn René Bayley