Marko Tajcevic, “Seven Balkan Dances,” Josip Slavenski, Piano Sonata, op. 4; Jelena Cingara, piano. ****
This album features two strongly contrasting works by two significant Yugoslav composers. Pianist Jelena Cingara’s decision to pair these works was a good one, as it shows the diversity of styles that was present in 20th century Yugoslavia.
The “Seven Balkan Dances” by Marko Tajcevic (1900-84) are vibrant and dynamic. Written in a modern harmonic idiom and charged with rhythmic vitality, they’re somewhat reminiscent of Béla Bartók’s Balkan pieces, yet at the same time they are refreshingly different.
Cingara captures the energy and passion of each dance with her well defined rhythmic sense and finely shaded execution. Her playing is crisp with clean intonation and subtle pedaling, and her interpretation leaves nothing to be desired.
The same also holds true for Cingara’s performance of the other work on this disc, the Piano Sonata, op. 4, by Josip Slavenski (1896-1955).
Slavenski’s piece is a study in contrasts; it’s robust and masculine while also exploring a more lyrical thread. It contains folk elements, but it’s also at times abstract. The harmonic language is tonal but within a broader definition of tonality. It’s not an easy task making all of this flow seamlessly, but Cingara manages to do just that in her marvelous interpretation.
As with Tajcevic’s dances, Cingara gives a strong, hearty performance that captures the disparate characteristics of the work. Her playing is clean, crisp, precise and fluid. She makes this piece exciting and vibrant.
This is a fine disc for people who are interested in exploring little known works by composers who are underrepresented on recordings.