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Christmas in Czech piano music

Ksenia Kouzmenko

Josef Suk, Jaroslav Kvapil, Bohuslav Martinu, Vitězslav Novák, Jaroslav Křička, Leos Janacek


Year of release: 2020

1. Christmas Eve Josef Suk 02:19
2. A Child’s Christmas Dream op.33 no.5 Josef Suk 03:01
Vánoce (Christmas) 16:56
3. I. Con fuoco Jaroslav Kvapil 04:53
4. Vánoce (Christmas) - II. Con moto Jaroslav Kvapil 04:10
5. Vánoce (Christmas) - III. Lento Jaroslav Kvapil 03:21
6. Vánoce (Christmas) - IV. Allegro molto Jaroslav Kvapil 04:30
Christmas 05:43
7. I. Sledge Bohuslav Martinu 01:05
8. II. Lullaby Bohuslav Martinu 02:18
9. III. Christmas Carol Bohuslav Martinu 02:19
Songs on Winter Nights op.30 17:30
10. I. Song on a Moonlit Night Vitězslav Novák 04:10
11. II. Song on a Stormy Night Vitězslav Novák 02:20
12. III. Song on Christmas Night Vitězslav Novák 06:47
13. IV. Song on Carnival Night Vitězslav Novák 04:12
Intimate Pieces op.17 11:27
14. I. Andante con malinconia Jaroslav Křička 03:01
15. II. Grave, con effusione Jaroslav Křička 02:07
16. III. Andante con tenerezza Jaroslav Křička 02:27
17. IV. Tempo di Valse Jaroslav Křička 03:51
Sonatina op.54 no.6 09:59
18. I. Pastorale. Quasi allegretto Vitězslav Novák 05:00
19. II. Advent Matins Chant from the Time of Hus, Andante. Doppio movimento Vitězslav Novák 04:59
20. Christ the Lord is born Leos Janacek 00:45

About this album

This program is a continuation of the two previous CD-projects with Czech music, “Whispering Leaves” (COBRA0069) and “Fenêtre sur le jardin” (COBRA0070). This time the theme is Christmas (“Vánoce”), again with a number of world premières of beautiful music which have been unjustly forgotten. 

“Christmas Eve” and “A Child’s Christmas Dream” by Josef Suk bring distinctly different Christmas atmospheres. The pieces are psycho- logically subtle, with many voices and complex harmonies, but always melodic, sincere, and generous.

The cycle “Vánoce” by Jaroslav Kvapil is the first world première on this CD. According to Ludvík Kundera, “it is not only the most personal work of Kvapil, but also an expression of an ardent life experience full of lyric beauty”. Here Kvapil’s spontaneous musicality blossoms, his inexhaustible melodic creativity and natural musical intuition. The immediacy and intensity with which he expresses his emotions brings to mind the compositional style of his teacher, Janáček.

Three short pieces (“Sledge”, “Lullaby”, and “Christmas Carol”) by Bohuslav Martinů render the atmosphere of the Christmas period and things that typically belong in it: snowy fun on a sledge, a children’s lullaby with magical bells which get more and more festive, and a merry Christmas pageant with singing and dancing.

Together with Suk, Vítězslav Novák was one of the best known pupils of Dvořák and one of the most important Czech composers of the beginning of the 20th century. Two of his works are presented on this CD. The “Songs on Winter Nights” are extremely varied in character: after an amorous moonlit night follows a nightly storm, after a mystical Christmas night a burlesque carnival’s night. The Christmas sonatina has a warmly lyrical and dance-like character. In the second part Novák uses an old song from the period of Jan Hus, which was traditionally sung during Epiphany.

One of Novák’s best pupils was Jaroslav Křička. His cycle “Intimate Pieces”, the second world première, was a Christmas present in 1912 for a certain Růža Pluhařová. It seems to be a tonal declaration of love. The intensity of its lyrical expression streams from beginning to end. The last small piece, “Christ the Lord is born” by Leoš Janáček is a charming and tender piano version of a very well-known Czech Christmas carol from the 15th century.

Ksenia Kouzmenko is internationally renowned for her sensitive and technically accomplished piano playing, and is a much sought after partner in chamber music. She recently discovered the joy of playing on an Érard grand piano, with its inspiring sound possibilities.

“Ksenia Kouzmenko is a convincing performer. She sweeps the listener along on her musical explorations”.

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Technical Specifications

Speakers KEF 105.3
Digital To Analog Converter HAPI
Mastering Equiment Pyramix
Mastering Engineer Tom Peeters
Editing Tom Peeters
Cables Acoustic Revive
Microphones B&K 4003 modified by Rens Heijnis
Recording Format DSD256
Analog To Digital Converter Merging Technologies - HAPI
Recording Date 20-23 july, 2020
Recording Location Westvest90, Schiedam, The Netherlands
Recording Engineer Tom Peeters
Production Mediatrack