24 Sep 2008 Dvorak Society review

Dvořák Society Newsletter Number 86, January 2009

Philip L Scowcroft

Czech Music in Doncaster

The Doncaster Museum lunch-hour concerts, which have in the past contributed considerably to the sum of Czech music performances, are now well past their thousand. The recital on 24th September 2008 (the 1072nd in the series) by pianist Jacqueline Cole, would have been of great interest to Czech music enthusiasts.

Its longest work was Janáček’s ‘On an Overgrown Path’ (Series 1) (1901-8), originally for harmonium. This is of course, not exactly a rarity though at the same time it does not figure too frequently in live recitals, maybe because its ten movements, totalling around half an hour, might be deemed a few too many. Whatever the reason for that, it was a pleasure to hear Miss Cole’s positive reading of these accessible, if sometimes withdrawn, even sad, miniatures.

Her programme also included Nicolas Medtner’s enjoyably lyrical, single movement First Sonata, Opus 38 and a charming folk-based miniature by her first teacher George Mantle Childe (born 1911); the other Czech work was the Second Sonata (of seven) Opus 19 by Viktor Ullmann, premièred in 1940: impressive and very concise, in three short movements, little longer than 12 minutes in all and impressively played here. The two outer movements were strongly rhythmic and at times even fierce — their idiom was perhaps atonal but with a strong feeling of tonality and not difficult for a listener to follow. The middle movement is a set of nine brief variations on a beautiful Moravian folk melody.

It is good to know that Miss Cole is due to return to Doncaster Museum in October 2009 to play the Seventh (and last) of Ullmann’s Sonatas, which, I suspect rivals in quality the similar number completed by Prokofiev.