Smetana Trio shines while going deeper into Czech music.
Whole review in PDF here…

The Smetana Trio, billed as the foremost of today’s Czech chamber ensembles, opened the Philharmonic Society’s chamber music series Saturday at Irvine Barclay Theatre with a clever program. It was an all-Czech agenda, but there wasn’t a note of Dvorák on it. The message was clear enough: There’s more to Czech music than you-know-who.

The group was founded in 1934, one of the original members being the current cellist’s father. It records regularly (for Supraphon) and travels widely. Its performances Saturday had a nice lived-in quality, which is to say naturalness and ease and the sense that no expression was forced, but, on the contrary, merely arrived at in the course of things….

Orange County, Oct. 19, 2014
(concert Oct. 18, 2014, Irvine Barclay Theatre)


Review of CD: Smetana Trio – Mendelssohn/Schubert, Piano Trio No1 in D minor, Piano Trio No2 in E flat major

It was very brave of the Smetana Trio to release this recording of Mendelssohn’s ravishing trio in D minor just weeks after Emanuel Ax, Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma version. But, whereas the latter is all starry virtuosity, the Smetana Trio’s is more considered, more controlled and altogether more of an ensemble interpretation. Both albums are, however, immensely pleasing for very different reasons. Schumann compared the work to Schubert’s No 2 in E flat major, which the Smetana Trio choose to complete their very fine recording. Again, ensemble is everything; the players serving the music, rather than the music serving the players.

The Observer (, 20 June 2010, Stephen Pritchard


” … The ensemble drew on delicate nuances of expression and they all spoke the same language. Six movements in the form of Ukrainian ‘dumky’ provided a lively alternation between quiet, introverted passages and outbursts of dance music. During the performance fragile pianissimos, Slavonic wistfulness and the overmastering joy of the musicians could all be heard. The changes of tempo were executed in masterly fashion. The award of the BBC Prize to the Smetana Trio for their recording of ‘Dumky’ was fully deserved … ”

Achim Strecker, Schwäbisches Tagblatt, 03/2010 (concert 25. 2. 2010, Tübingen)


The superb Smetana Trio

Piano, violin and violoncello. On Tuesday evening the Chalon Conservatory gave the public the opportunity to enjoy a performance by the Smetana Trio, which is a real musical gem. The trio of virtuosos – Jitka Čechová, Jana Vonášková-Nováková and Jan Páleníček – opened the concert with a captivating work by Mozart, full of joy, life, and playfulness. Mozart must certainly have enjoyed composing it, and the musicians faithfully communicated his mood to us. They then offered the large audience a trio by the modern Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů, a darker work than the previous one, full of sudden changes and squalls. Its andante, with its resigned air, is however balanced by the lively concluding allegro. From the applause that resounded through the hall it was clear that this part of the concert had really won over the audience. A beautiful composition by Bedřich Smetana from the 19th century then led them into the deepest and highest regions of the human soul. The atmosphere was uplifted by a huge surge of energy, and the perfectly coordinated Smetana Trio enchanted the audience with its amazing musical alchemy. The concert closed with a very joyful and playful composition by Joseph Haydn. It was a concert that was both outstanding and human.

Journal de Saône-et-Loire, Edition de Chalon, 12. 10. 2009, J.-M. G. (CLP)


The Smetana Trio (Jitka Čechová – piano, Jana Vonášková-Nováková – violin, Jan Páleníček – violoncello) have recently set out a number of times to give concerts abroad. They were guests at the European Musical Summer 2009 festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where in addition to works by Dvořák and Smetana they played a trio by the Slovene composer Dušan Bavdek; in Split, Croatia, and Bergamo, Italy, they presented a Czech programme from the works of Martinů, Dvořák and Smetana; in Chalon, France, in addition to Czech music, they played Mozart’s Trio in C major; and in Erfurt, Germany, they performed Czech music in combination with Haydn and Schubert. In November the Smetana Trio flew to Brazil, where they performed a programme with works by Villa-Lobos, Schubert and Smetana in Rio de Janeiro, the capital Brasilia, and Maceió, to tumultuous success and standing ovations. Shortly after its return the Smetana Trio completed its fifth recording for Supraphon, consisting of trios by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy op. 49 and Schubert op. 100.

Hudební rozhledy, Prague


A concert by the Smetana Trio in the National Museum in Stockholm

People who have grown up in a chamber music environment find this genre is much closer to their heart than do those who start to take an interest in it later in life. Musicians who belong to the first group have a more internalised approach, are less concerned with creating an effect, and are more sensitive to stimuli coming from the musicians they are playing with than to those coming from the audience. And their listeners in turn find it easier to become absorbed in their interpretation, because it induces a feeling of absolute certainty. It does not happen often, but it happened during the final evening of the summer cycle of concerts in the National Museum, during the concert by the Smetana Trio. The artistic director of the project, Staffan Mårtenson, only had quite simply to enter Brahms’s Trio, op. 114, with his clarinet, and he created a single whole with the piano of Jitka Čechová and the violoncello of her husband. The Czech cellist Jan Páleníček has in fact absorbed chamber music directly with his mother’s milk. He was endowed with a piano trio as if by the fairies, for his father, one of the leading pianists in his country, founded this ensemble as long ago as 1934. The son has continued this family tradition, together with his wife Jitka Čechová and the violinist Jana Vonášková-Nováková, for twelve years now. The members of the ensemble are united by an honest and humble approach to the score.

They presented the magic of Haydn’s well-known Trio in G major with its variations and Hungarian rondo, interpreting it in the best possible way – quite simply, without any unnecessary pretence.

And it was just such an approach to its musical ideas that set a masterly seal on Dvorák’s Second Trio, op. 26, with its dramatically escalating furiant in the scherzo and the gypsy-tinged finale, as if following Brahms’s example.

Before Josef Suk’s “Elegy”, written in memory of the poet Julius Zeyer, Staffan Mårtenson performed the slightly humorous clarinet monologue by Carin Bartosch-Edströms, “Morning Already?” – music expressing the mood of a tired parent of a young child in a desperate attempt to prolong their sleep in the early hours of the morning. The final love of Brahms’s life was the playing of the solo clarinettist in the legendary Meiningen Hofkapelle, Richard Mühlfeld. The unique sound of Mühlfeld’s instrument was still capable of arousing the composer’s fading creative spark. Brahms’s recognition of the fact that the best part of his life is now behind him hovers over the whole of this work for the clarinet. Not even the dance rhythm in the third movement displays any particular spark of life. It is a touching testimony.

The carpet beneath the piano did indeed considerably reduce the undesirable acoustic echoes that were to be heard previously. If next year the lighting for the musicians’ music stands does not blind the audience as well, then everything will be perfect.

Svenska Dagbladet, 10 July 2009, Carl-Gunnar Åhlén


Review of CD: Tchaikovsky – Piano Trio in A minor; Dvořák –Piano Trio No. 2

The Smetana Trio has been around in name since the 1930s. Its current personnel are Jana Vonášková-Nováková, violin; Jan Páleníček, cello and son of the ensemble’s pianist founder, Josef; and Jitka Čechová, piano. … The Smetana’s Dvořák is well nigh perfect, not only in matters of technical execution and ensemble balance, but also in capturing the idiomatic Czech flavor intrinsic to so much of this composer’s music. Everywhere are the elements of Bohemia’s folk song and dance. … For the Dvořák, however, I can think of none better than the Smetana Trio on the current disc. …

Fanfare, May/June 2009, Jerry Dubins


Review of CD: Tchaikovsky – Piano Trio in A minor; Dvořák –Piano Trio No. 2

Only a very few Czech chamber ensembles play with such immense personal commitment as the Smetana Trio… the interpreters work superbly with the contrasts in mood and perform magic with the sound. In their rendition, each variation is a beautiful image full of colour… The Smetana Trio has prepared an exceptionally intensive musical experience for its listeners. The way it plays Tchaikovsky is truly unique, and the members of the Trio bring so much energy and emotion to the performance that they literally “draw us into” their interpretation… The distinctive graphic design of the booklet and the excellent accompanying text help place this superb recording by the Smetana Trio among the most outstanding Supraphon projects of recent times
Review by Věroslav Němec, Harmonie, January 2009


Review of CD: Tchaikovsky, P.I. – Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50; Dvořák, A. – Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor

The musicality of performers from the Czech Republic is almost a given. The country is rich in musical history and boasts an impeccably strong tradition. Here are three artists who clearly sit in the middle of this tradition. … There is no doubting the sterling musicianship of all three players. … We get plenty of chances to admire the gorgeous interplay of violin and cello in the opening “Pezzo elegiaco” … Čechová is clearly a major talent, as her discs of Smetana on Supraphon have so conclusively demonstrated. … The level of structural understanding evidenced by the present players is remarkable. … The movement here emerges in these players’ hands as a magnificent, many-sided jewel. … This group is evidently a well established unit from the way motifs are passed, seamlessly, from one instrument to another. … It would be difficult to imagine a finer, fresher, more youthful account than this …

MusicWeb International, 2008, Colin Clarke


Review of CD: Tchaikovsky, P.I. – Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50; Dvořák, A. – Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor

… the Smetana Trio’s interpretation is stirring, passionate,… The Smetana Trio has tackled Dvořák firmly, resolutely, and sensitively, and unfurls floods of emotion in a masterly way…

Diverdi, December 2008, José Velasco


Review of CD: Tchaikovsky, P.I. – Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50; Dvořák, A. – Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor

The Smetana Trio provides expressive, perceptive playing at every turn. … Excellently recorded, this performance is the current top choice.
BBC Music Magazine, December 2008, Choice of the Month, Jan Smaczny


Trio versus orchestra

The performance of Bohuslav Martinů’s Concertino for Piano Trio and String Orchestra, H. 232, at the concert of the Prague Symphony Orchestra in the Municipal House on 2 October 2010 was slightly reminiscent of a football match… It was the first time I had heard the whole of the Concertino live, and it was a delight to listen to, thanks to the excellent performance of the Smetana Trio. The pianist Jitka Čechová,… the violinist Jana Vonášková-Nováková, and the violoncellist Jan Páleníček were perfectly prepared, appeared even to breathe in unison, and presented the music with humility, passion, and the highest standard of tonal culture…

Harmonie, November 2008, Luboš Stehlík


Review of CD: Tchaikovsky, P.I. – Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50; Dvořák, A. – Piano Trio, No. 2

Smetana Trio with brilliant Jitka Čechová‘s piano, singing softly and passionately playing Jana Vonášková‘s violin and Jan Páleníček‘s excellent cello is now the absolute top in their field. After the previous recordings, mapping the best of the Czech trio literature, the Trio are finalizing a set of complete trios of Dvorak while strutting outside the Czech repertoire. Their Tchaikovsky surprises similar nature expressive and engrossing that in the event of Dvořák‘s Dumky and trio No. 3 in F minor, earned rave reviews and awards (BBC Music Magazine Award 2007). Tchaikovsky’s Trio in A minor, by the way one of the longest piano trios ever, can be understood as the composer’s attempt to overcome hes antipathy to the sound combination of piano with violin or cello. Smetana trio grabbed it with passion and understanding for the “broad Slavonic soul”. Smetana Trio: inimitable Dvorak and Tchaikovsky played with passion and riveting expressivity.

Supraphon, Prague, 2008


Smetana’s Litomyšl International Opera Festival, 2008

The pianist Jitka Čechová, the violinist Jana Nováková, and the violoncellist Jan Páleníček are very worthy successors to the former famous line-up of the Smetana Trio … they fully lived up to their reputation in Litomyšl on 21 June 2008 … They gave renditions of Tchaikovsky’s less well-known Trio with the subtitle In Memory of a Great Artist (performed with a strong ethical subtext), Suk’s more softly interpreted Elegy, and Smetana’s Trio in G minor that were of the highest standard …

Haló noviny, 10 July 2008, Tomáš Hejzlar


Review of CD: Dvořák – Piano Trio No, B 51; Fibich – Piano Trio; Martinů – Piano Trio No 2, H327

… The Smetana Trio give a wonderfully refined performance which is yet strong and energetic. They bring an attractive lightness to the third movement Allegretto scherzando…again light and sparkling….

Gramophone Awards 2007, Edward Greenfield


Review of CD: Dvořák – Piano Trio in B flat major Op 21; Fibich – Piano Trio in F minor; Martinů – Piano Trio No 2 in D minor

… The players bring the mark of a great ensemble to all three pieces: unity of purpose combined with individuality of character. A delight.

Telegraph, 24 November 2007, MR


Review of CD: A. Dvořák / Z. Fibich / B. Martinů: Piano Trios

The performances are faultless: the Dvorak is done with exuberant grandeur, the other two Trios with a concentrated precision that gives the impression that the three players are functioning as an indivisible unit.

The Guardian, 12 December 2007, Tim Ashley


Another superb recording from the Smetana Trio: Dvořák / Fibich / Martinů – Piano Trios

After its recent recognition in the BBC Awards 2007, the Smetana Trio present another high point of their art as interpreters … The enchanting tone of Jana Vonášková-Nováková’s violin coming from the centre delights listeners in all registers with its nuanced sound, unforced entries, perfect intonation, and playing reminiscent of some of the greatest figures in world music. The violoncello of Jan Páleníček with its many shades of colour comes to the listener from the right-hand speaker – at times as if from far off – and amazes us with its broad range of accents and vibrato and generation of tone. The piano part of Jitka Čechová is full of dynamic nuances of touch, and does not allow itself to be lured into excessive use of the pedals in the exalted dramatic sections. The recording is full of feeling, passion and authenticity. Almost as though it was recorded live., 24 September 2007, Libor Nováček

Virtuoso emissaries of chamber music
The Smetana Trio from Prague play works by Schubert and Dvořák at a concert in Karlsruhe.

…Schubert’s late piano trio was in the best hands. Already in this work the musicians displayed the full range of their art: breathing together in the opening unison of the first movement, where the three instruments blended into a single sound, a perfect understanding of the varied moods, and in addition a delight in the music which had no technical boundaries. At the same time the architecture of the movements was never neglected, and never for a moment did the musicians lose sight of the whole while shaping the details (…) After the interval, Dvořák’s first preserved piano trio followed… Everything followed on so naturally that the impression grew on the audience that the music had to be played like this and could not be played in any other way (…) There was tremendous applause and shouts of “Bravo!”, which the musicians repaid by playing the slow movement from Zdeněk Fibich’s piano trio and the final movement from Dumky.

Badische Neueste Nachrichten, Karlsruhe, 28 March 2007


Diapason and BBC Music Magazine’s appreciations of the recording of Dvořák’s Trio no. 3 in F minor, op. 65 and Trio no. 4, op. 90, “Dumky”:

Diapason speaks of the most physical and most soulful interpretation, full of a rare emotional force and authenticity, and highlights Páleníček’s precise violoncello, Čechová’s strong supporting piano and Vonášková-Nováková’s rousing, lively, violin, and their vibrant performance with its outstanding rhythmic and naturally pulsating feel, “flexible” approach to the musical time, and use of expressive nuances down to the last microsequence. It compares the recording to the performance by Oistrach, Knusevitsky and Oborin.

BBC Music Magazine speaks of the new definitive Dvořák and considers the performance of the Trio in F minor to be a groundbreaking interpretation, bringing to life the work’s abundant emotional force. It point in particular to the incandescent rendition of the first movement, the winning lyricism of the second, and the completely triumphant finale. In Dumky, Smaczny most appreciates the blend of soulful expressiveness and, where needed, wild infectiousness, and sees a vital ingredient of the Smetana Trio’s success in the quality of its string sound, its variety of tone and its handling of vibrato. He pays tribute to the unrivalled atmosphere of the Smetana Trio’s interpretation throughout the recording, creating unmatched results.

Hudební rozhledy, 2/2007, Petr Veber


The Young Podium 2006 festival was brought to a close by three people who to all appearances do not need to confirm their qualities, and whose unpretentious masterly performances have achieved international renown… The sparkling interplay between the stability and colour of Jan Páleníček’s violoncello, the natural precision and panache of the pianist Jitka Čechová, and Jana Vonášková-Nováková, who would be capable of using a bow that was twice as long, creates fresh and authentic ideas. Martinů’s Piano Trio in D minor, H.327, was outstanding for the absolute precision of the Trio’s coordination and the dynamic nuances without the slightest superfluous sound. The violinist – especially in Smetana’s Trio in G minor – now understands the role of first violinist and is no longer the unbridled torrent she once was, but is capable of relishing accompanying roles as well. The gradations in Dvořák’s Dumky were perfectly timed and did not flag even at the highest speeds; the changes of mood did not appear forced, and the elegiac moods did not decline into pathos. Dvořák’s penchant for scherzando was combined with a depth of feeling, and there was nothing in the performance that did not have its place in Dumky. The standing ovations were deserved, and the 34th annual Young Podium festival could not have wished for a better conclusion.

Hudební rozhledy 12/2006, Jiří Kopecký


Review of CD: A. Dvořák – Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90 „Dumky“; Piano Trio in F minor, Op. 65

… With its passionate outer movements and meditative central sections, the F minor trio is, likewise, awash with Dvořák’s unending melodic freshness. The Smetana Trio has these works in its blood, and the burnished cello tone of Jan Páleníček, Jana Vonášková-Nováková’s velvety violin and Jitka Čechová’s airy graceful pianism blend magically well together.

ClassicFM, October 2006, Jeremy Nicholas


Review of CD: Dvořák – Piano Trios

Czech the new definitive Dvořák

The latest incarnation of the Smetana Trio sweep the board with their first installment of Dvořák’s piano trios; JAN SMAZCNY describes its virtues.

The bookends of Dvořák’s creative career were chamber music at its beginning and opera at its close. While his four piano trios are not scattered equally throughout his vast output, they stand at important junctures: the first two surviving trios (how marvellous it would be to hear the lost earlier ones, composed during a period of acute compositional experiment) were written in the mid-1870s, and stand on the verge of a more classical phase close to the Fifth Symphony and the well known E major String Serenade.

Along with the Seventh Symphony, the F minor Trio best exemplifies the perfectionism Dvořák sought in the mid 1880s. Well aware that his new works in a venerable classical mould would be scrutinised by the likes of Brahms and Hanslick, Dvořák subjected the Trio to painstaking revision before it reached a final form. Far from suppressing spontaneity, the numerous changes harnessed the passion of Dvořák’s original inspiration to a powerful sense of momentum, which leads with devastating logic to the magnificent catharsis that concludes the finale. The Dumky Trio, although designed for a rather different audience – Dvořák’s fellow Bohemians as a temporary farewell before he left for America in 1892 – shares the passion of the F minor Trio, even though it is displayed with greater volatility and arranged in the far from conventional frame of six short movements.

Building on a consistent track record of virtue, the Smetana Trio, excellently recorded, deliver landmark performances of both trios. The recorded history of the F minor Trio is one in which ensembles have tended to show it respect rather than love. Here is a ground-breaking performance that brings all the work’s abundant emotional force to life. The developmental intensity of the F minor Trio’s first movement has rarely seemed more incandescent or the slow movement more winningly lyrical; best of all is the satisfyingly conclusive end to the finale.

With the more consciously popular-in-tone Dumky Trio (so-called after the Dumka song-form upon which each movement is structured), the Smetana Trio’s performance is equally definitive. Dvořák himself had initial doubts about the effect of a succession of movements based largely on contrast, but his innate sense of balance produced a masterpiece that rapidly passed into the canon. The Smetana Trio delivers exactly the right blend of soulful expressiveness and, where needed, the wild infectiousness Dvořák intended, without resorting to the slightly hectoring manner adopted by some ensembles. A vital ingredient in the Smetana Trio’s success is the quality of their string sound, its variety of tone and the handling of vibrato. Certainly there are many details to admire in these performances, but in the end it is the Trio’s unrivalled feeling of ensemble that generates results unmatched in the catalogue.

BBC Music Magazine, September 2006, Choice of the Month, Jan Smaczny


BBC Music Magazine – Q&A Jitka Čechová

Daniel Jaffé talks with the Smetana Trio’s pianist about playing Dvořák:

How important is it for players to know the Czech ‘background’ to Dvořák’s music?

Like his great Czech colleagues Smetana, Janáček and Martinů, Dvořák was influenced by the rich tradition of Czech folklore from which he certainly drew material. However we don’t believe that this is a dominant aspect in his work. And probably this is the reason why musicians outside that tradition can more easily identify with Dvořák’s work compared to Smetana’s, for example, which is much more influenced by Czech folklore.

You’ve recorded Dvořák’s Piano Trio Op. 65 before (for another label). What made you decide to record this again, and were there any differences in how you approached the work for your new Supraphon recording?

The main reason we recorded Op. 65 again was that both Supraphon and ourselves wanted to record Dvořák’s entire work for piano trio. Also our earlier recording was made with another violinist. Each member of a piano trio determines its sound and expression, so clearly if you substitute a player these qualities will change. Although by the time we recorded the work for Supraphon we had developed a mature interpretation though long experience of performing it, we also try to explore and discover new aspects of a work whenever we play it. Hopefully we were successful in doing this when making our recording.

The Op. 90 Trio has a very unusual form.

Yes. Unlike the Op. 65 Trio, which follows the classical sonata form – and incidentally is undoubtedly one of the greatest works in the piano trio repertoire – Op. 90 is a unique structure, each movement being based on a Slavic art song form, the Dumka, each in a contrasting mood. Nevertheless we feel that Dvořák presents these contrasting moods within a sophisticated and complex structure: after all, he himself wrote attacca between most of the Dumky.

BBC Music Magazine, September 2006, Daniel Jaffé


Review of CD: Dvořák – Piano Trios

DIAPASON D’OR (“Golden tuning-Fork”) for the SMETANA TRIO

Dvořák must be extremely happy! This new recording of his two most important trios will probably come to be considered as one of the most physical and abrasive, the least easy on the ear, but also the most heartfelt and the most fired by a rare emotional charge and authenticity. This elated rendition, dominated by the precise violoncello of Jan Páleníček, magnificently seconded by the strong supporting piano of Jitka Čechová … and the rousing, lively violin of Jana Vonášková, is charged with an outstanding rhythmic and naturally pulsing feel. A “flexible” approach to the musical time (which we could not accuse of being rubato) offers the interpreters fascinating opportunities for expressive nuances, which they make use of down to the last and shortest microsequence, and demonstrate in a completely convincing way how illusory it is, and also how dangerous, to try to control this natural grandness of manner, just as natural as its need for deep breath. The members of the Smetana Trio, who had already produced an outstanding recording of Dumky in 2000 … have understood this very well, and provide these two works by Dvořák – so different, and yet germinated from the same seed – with a sincere and free interpretation, sometimes driven to maximum expressiveness and always very instinctive. In a period of such standardisation of sound, this disc convinces through its commitment. In terms of interpretation it is closer to the version by Oistrach, Knusevitsky and Oborin (Monitor) than those of the Beaux-Arts Trio (Philips) or the Suk Trio (Supraphon), which are perfect but often too well-ordered and predictable in their aesthetic rendition, well worthy of respect though it may be.

Diapason, September 2006, Philippe Simon


Review of CD: Dvořák – Piano Trios

This CD offers us the opportunity to hear an exceptionally emotive rendition of two of Dvorák’s best-known and most frequently performed piano trios. The Smetana Trio plays them in a very lively, natural, and convincing fashion. A range of colour in the sound is combined with a perfect feel for agogics, and superb use of time has endowed Dvořák’s music with a surprisingly broad and free space for the listener to visualise the romantic “landscape behind the music”. Dumky, with its contrasts of mood, here comes across almost like a symphonic poem, and the Piano Trio in F minor comes close in its scope and in particular in its overall sound to a genuine symphony… What can be appreciated most of all in this new recording is its unmistakably more mellow sound and a greater maturity of expression.

Harmonie, 9/2006, Věroslav Němec


Review of CD: Dvořák – Piano Trios

In this coupling of Dvorák´s most popular (Dumky, op. 90) and the greatest (the Trio in F minor, op. 65) piano trios, they capture the national spirit of Dvorák´s dance movements with a native understanding of the idiom. … The F minor work is a turbulent masterpiece in the tradition of Schumann and Brahms. The Smetanas have this glorious music in their blood.

The Sunday Times, 08/2006


Review of CD: Smetana: Piano Trio in g minor; Suk: Piano Trio in c minor, Elegie; Novák: Piano Trio „Quasi una balata“

The Smetana Trio members demonstrate both the technical expertise of their namesake and that almost telepathic knowledge of each other’s interpretative choices that makes chamber music in good hands. … On the one hand, they display a complete agreement of approach in unison passages, but they also revel in the give and take that marks a true ensemble in performance. … Their playing crackles with energy. ….

Fanfare 08/2006, Barry Brenesal


Review of CD: Dvořák – Piano Trios 3&4

… Passion and spontaneity unite with rhythmic precision and a real feeling for the dance… I loved the lightness of rhythm in the next piece … careful attention to dynamics and a flowing tempo create an effortless feeling of movement. There isn’t a second in this performance where you feel the music should be played any other way, and no praise can be higher than that.

If anything, these qualities are even more evident in the great F minor trio. … but notice how perfectly in tune the opening octaves are and how perfectly balances are maintained… but it’s the slow movement that’s really special here. It’s not only beautifully paced and phrased, but the ensemble obviously took as much care with transitions as with the melodies, and the result has a seamless continuity …

In the finale, happily taking Dvorák’s “con brio” admonition literally, the ensemble sails into the coda with such enthusiasm that the music seems self-propelled. The final turn to the major in the coda is absolutely thrilling, and the closing bars offer the ultimate in musical satisfaction.

Classics Today, June 2006, David Hurwitz


Review of CD: Dvořák – Piano Trios

… This combination of the weight of tradition with the vitality of youth makes for invigorating performances of two of Dvorák’s best-known chamber works. The “dumka” that the composer used as the model for his Op. 90 was originally a morose Ukrainian ballad form, but Dvorák injected it with contrasting colours and moods, and it is these that are expounded with such life and diligence by the Smetana Trio through the work’s six movements.

The forward-sounding recording enables Pálenícek to make his mark from the opening bars (though some may conceivably find his tone too strident here), and his colleagues – violinist Jana Vonásková -Nováková and pianist Jitka Cechová – soon join in what becomes a celebration of dance rhythms and expressive narrative. Their performance of the more conventional, four-movement F minor Trio is no less inspired, capturing its agitation as successfully as its lyricism.

The Telegraph, June 2006, Matthew Rye