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Posted at 12:01 PM ET, 09/25/2011

Review: a beguiling night of Dvorak

A few questions suggested themselves at last Thursday’s recital of pianist Radoslav Kvapil at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, part of the “Mutual Inspirations Festival 2011” celebrating the works of Antonín Dvorák. Why was it scheduled as a Millennium Stage event and then held elsewhere? And why not give Kvapil a proper full recital at the Terrace, which was dark that evening? After his one-hour program, the artist, a noted specialist in Czech music, seemed to be just getting warmed up, and the large audience certainly wanted more.

The program was enjoyable on many levels. Kvapil offered a beguiling selection of both early and mature works totally unfamiliar to most of us. Particularly in his early years, Dvorák struggled to handle large-scale works effectively, but his lyrical gifts sprang forth like Athena — fully ready at birth. Even in the earliest works, the endless flow of harmonic and melodic invention rivaled Schubert’s, though without the earlier master’s sophistication.

In four groups of miniatures, Kvapil charmed the audience with a series of gems, culminating in the “Poetic Tone Pictures” Op. 85, which added a sprinkling of Lisztian keyboard vocabulary to the bardic musical ideas. Kvapil, who began giving concerts in 1950, is now a somewhat cautious player. He drew rich sounds when the music was uncomplicated, but the fingers would betray him in stormier passages. And one looked for more humor in the “Humoresques,” which came off a little dour. But this was a mostly enjoyable evening of discovery.

By Robert Battey  |  12:01 PM ET, 09/25/2011

 
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