Smetana Piano Trio

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Jana Vonaskova-Novakova – violin

Jan Palenicek – cello

Jitka Cechova – piano

TchaikowskyPiano Trio in A minor Op 50
NovákTrio in D minor quasi una ballata Op 27
DvorákTrio Op 90 [Dumky]

Skipton Music is pleased to welcome this trio from the Czech Republic. The current Smetana Trio, with cellist Jan Palenicek, continues the tradition of the popular piano trio of the same name founded in the 1930s by his father, pianist Josef Palenicek. Jan is recognised as one of the finest cellists on the Czech music scene.


The Smetana Trio, opening Skipton Music's 65th season, captivated Tuesday's Town Hall audience with some remarkable musicianship. Formed originally in 1930s Prague, the present Trio - Jan Páleniček (cello), son of the Trio's founder, Jana Vonaskova-Novakova (violin) and Jitka Čechová (piano) - plays regularly throughout the Czech Republic and abroad. They were very much at home in an evening of demanding Russian and Eastern European music.

The Piano Trio in A minor Op.50, written in Rome during winter 1881-82 for his benefactress Madame von Meck, is Tchaikovsky's only such work. He had original doubts about the instrumental combination. Revision after private performances produced today's version. Its first movement, 'Pezzo Elegiaco', opened with panache and a memorable cello solo. Generally solemn passages and delicate instrumental repartee followed before an inevitable funeral march. The second movement's variations on a theme rose to "more and more ecstatic heights" as, with superb confidence, the pianist played what some consider Tchaikovsky's most difficult music for the instrument.

Novák (1870-1949) was a leading figure in the Czech school of composition. His Trio in D minor Op.27, a single movement with Romantic and folk influences, received a convincing interpretation.

Dvořák's so-called 'Dumky' Trio Op.90 was the last item on the programme, a dumka being a Slavonic folk ballad, "alternately elegiac and madly gay", often used by Dvořák in instrumental music. Six dumky in different keys enjoyed remarkable treatment, melancholic and humorous in turn.

An outstanding recital - not least for some haunting single-note piano themes against exquisite string accompaniment, but also for impressive ensemble diminuendos closing in diaphanous pianissimos. A generous encore – Josef Suk's 'Elegy' - rewarded the audience's enthusiasm.

Douglas Riddiough