SMETANA: Ma Vlast – Evelinde Trenker and Sontraud Speidel, pianos – MD&G Gold Records MD&G 930 1960-6 multi-channel SACD with additional 2+2+2 80:00 (8/5/16) [Distr. by eOne] ****:
A unique transcription of the Smetana classic arranged for two pianos.
Smetana’s Ma Vlast is a standard part of the concert repertoire. It was the composer’s manifesto of national destiny for Czech listeners and it went on to worldwide acclaim.
Smetana debuted the piece in 1882, and by that time the composer was almost completely deaf. In structure, it is similar to Lizst’s symphonic poems. Heard with a full orchestra it’s a thrilling piece. Here we get something a little different, with a performance for duo pianos by Eveline Trencher and Sontraud Speidel.
The two virtuosi have toured the world in concert, playing acclaimed transcriptions of Mahler and Bruckner at Lincoln Center and at various venues and festivals around Europe. I can’t say I prefer the Smetana for two pianos, but it is a captivating listen. The use of two pianos provides a tonal depth that one piano would not, and the pianists preserve the emotion and lush dynamics of the piece. It’s a surprisingly good listen.
The 5.1 channel SACD is excellent, with a realistic image of the two pianos in a natural acoustic. It’s one of the finest piano recordings I’ve heard, with superb dynamics, especially in The Moldau movement.
The recording has the standard CD layer, and something being pushed in Europe, a 2+2+2 layer with extra frontal speakers. Some transcriptions leave me cold, because I keep hearing the orchestral version as I listen. I think this performance of Ma Vlast stands well on its own, and I found it a worthwhile listen.