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Dip Your Ears, No. 225 (Dvořák’s Works for Violin & Piano)

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Antonín Dvořák, Works for Piano and Violin
Ivan Zenaty (violin), Igor Ardasev (piano)
Audite SACD

Dvořák’s works for violin and piano are not as widely known or regularly performed as you might think, given the A-list popularity of the composer and the popular and mainstream instrumental combination. Presumably that’s due to the lack of a body of major works to drive the interest: A handful of strong sonatas, perhaps, might have done the trick. In fact, there is only one Violin Sonata proper of Dvořák’s, and that’s not the strongest work among the lot. Jaroslav Smolka’s superb liner notes don’t pretend otherwise: without particular architectural grandeur, a heightened sense of innovative contrasts, violinistic virtuosity or dramatic tension, this dreamy-lyrical work lacks in ambition what it offers in lovely music... but such lovely music!

Ivan Zenaty (violin) and Igor Ardasev (piano) perform these pieces charmingly without overdoing it on the sugar. The Sonatina op.100, written for his children, fits in with its aim at home music-making and lack of a ‘grand concertant’ ambition. But it’s a tuneful and memorable thing and fills a very entertaining 20 minutes with that popular American-Czech idiom of Dvořák’s that he also used in works like the “American” Quartet and “From the New Worl” Symphony. The catchy Romantic Pieces op.75/1 are given a bit of an edge and could benefit from a bit more bloom. The fairly popular Mazurek op.49, here in its piano-and-violin original, wouldn’t be harmed if the piano’s part were taken with greater brilliance and less accompanying decorum. The sound on this 2006 high-resolution recording is very good and neutral, perhaps favoring the violin a bit over the piano. Low-key splendor, all in all.

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