PREVIN 2 Little Serenades; BACH Partita BWV 1004; PÄRT Spiegel im Spiegel
There is a surprisingly coherent thread running through what at first looks like slightly random programming here. Its unifying idea is that of music’s greatness being beyond the notes on the page, and it looks to André Previn (through two pieces he wrote for Itzhak Perlman as the violinist awaited the birth of his first child), Glenn Gould (with his associations with Bach and his own unfathomable character) and Arvo Pärt (and his use of minimalist resources to paint intricate musical pictures) to demonstrate this. The Gould Bassoon Sonata is an exciting find, the music as mercurial and disjointed as Gould himself, with outbursts of frustration interspersed with Bachian fugue (especially in the graphic little self-portrait that forms the third movement). Its complexity, alongside the Previn, contrasts well with the simplicity of Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, which both musicians leave well alone and present perfectly as the piece of supplicatory beauty that it is.
The Bach Partita, says Śmietana, is a ‘perfect field for exploring…pain and sorrow hidden behind the score’. I am not convinced she’s the first to have noticed that potential and, in trying to underline the points she makes in her booklet-notes, she often interrupts Bach’s more pertinent arguments. It is particularly noticeable in the Allemande and Sarabande, with the Chaconne suffering most from over-handling (and some distracting intonation issues in the middle section); the faster Courante and Gigue benefit much more from Śmietana’s beautiful tone, excellent speeds and forward drive. The overall potential for this duo should not be underestimated, though: Śmietana and Berezovsky (22-year-old daughter of Boris) already display the gravitas of players twice their age.