VIKTOR KALABIS (1923-2006): Complete Piano Music - Sonatas No. 1, Op. 2, No. 2, Op. 4 and No. 3, Op. 57, 8 Accents, Op. 26, Entrata, aria e toccata, Op. 41, 3 Polkas, Op. 52, 4 Enigmas for Graham, Op. 71, 2 Toccatas, Op. 88, Allegro impetuoso, Op. 89.
Catalogue Number: 05U062
Reference: SU 4259-2
Description: Although the piano was Kalabis' instrument, it occupies a relatively small part of his substantial output; nevertheless, what there is is of very distinguished quality. His influences were Honegger, Martinů, Stravinsky, Hindemith, and above all, Bartók, but early on he forged a personal style in which the formal clarity of neoclassicism (even when applied to unconventional structures) is a constant, as is a slightly acerbic tonal language, plentifully bitonal or polytonal and often rather Bartókian. The first two sonatas are from 1947 and 1948. Both are serious works, audibly inflected by resonances of the recent war. Sonata No.1 is in three movements, with a traditional allegro in modified sonata form and an agitated toccata-like finale framing a solemn funeral march. In the two part Second Sonata the funereal meditation has become a slowly treading, lamenting movement in its own right, marked 'Introduction', while the second part, called 'Sonata' fulfills the role of a three-movement specimen of the genre. This idea must have appealed to the composer, because when he returned to the sonata genre after 34 years, he structured the 3rd Sonata similarly, with a slow Prelude preceding the discursive multi-part section, this time called 'Drama'. The piano textures are notably more distinctive and inventive than in the early pieces, and the emotional range wider, but the harmonic language has remained consistent over the years. The shorter pieces are mostly arranged into substantial groups, beginning with the eight character-pieces that make up Accents. These are lighter in mood than the sonatas, though still with a certain brittle terseness of expression. Each explores a different piano texture and mood. The Entrata, Aria e Toccata is a work of some stature; an imposing introduction prefaces a solemn, withdrawn aria and a playful, motoric final section. The Polkas are nothing like the folksy dances you might be expecting; they exude a sense of fun, but hide their origins in unexpected piano figuration and clipped rhythmic accents - this is where the composer most resembles Martinů in this program. "Graham" is Graham Melville-Mason, who did a great deal for Czech-British musical interaction in the Cold War years and beyond. These tributes are warmly affectionate, less harmonically abrasive (though with some 'enigmatic' effects and surprises!) than much of the music here, apparently more in keeping with Kalabis' affable personality. The late works were competition pieces, energetic and cunningly demanding technically, though not esthetically, with a return to neoclassicism. 2 CDs. Ivo Kahánek (piano).