Vítzslava Kaprálová : Complete Piano Music
Grand Piano GP708

Giorgio Koukl, piano
World Premiere Recording (*)
Recorded on January 5 and March 25, 2016
Conservatorio Lugano, Switzerland.
Rel. February 10, 2017



Despite her tragically brief life, Vítězslava Kaprálová is now considered the most important female Czech composer of the 20th century, her prolific output abundant with fresh and bold ideas, passion, tenderness and youthful energy.
This in-depth exploration, representing some of the very best of her music, includes early gems such as the April Preludes, the exquisite and sophisticated Variations, the remarkable Sonata appassionata and
her final Dance for piano, reconstructed by Giorgio Koukl from its only surviving sketch.

This project has been assisted by the Kapralova Society

Like her composer father, Kapralova was drawn to piano as her natural instrument, and piano compositions are well represented in her relatively large creative output that includes about fifty compositions. Piano also played a crucial role in her music as a compositional tool with which she experimented in both smaller and larger forms. It is therefore not surprising that her most original and sophisticated works are for this instrument: from her Sonata Appassionata and Piano Concerto in D Minor to April Preludes and Variations sur le carillon de l’eglise St.-Etienne du Mont (and the Martinu–influenced, neoclassical Partita in which piano also plays an important percussive role). Piano compositions arguably represent the best of Kapralova’s music which abounds in fresh and bold ideas, humour, passion and tenderness, and is imbued with youthful energy.

This release is an in-depth exploration of Kapralova’s development as a composer for piano. The first composition to appear on the disc is the remarkable two-movement Sonata Appassionata, op. 6, from 1933, which is considered a major contribution to twentieth century Czech sonata literature. The first movement in traditional sonata form radiates passionate intensity; the second movement is a theme and set of lyrical variations which gradually obscure the melodic and harmonic connections to the theme. The sonata is followed by three bold, contemporaneous exercises in originally Baroque forms: “Praeludium” and “Crab Canon” (from Three Piano Pieces, op. 9) and Grotesque Passacaglia. These pieces, all from 1935, are products of the composer’s studies at the Prague Conservatory, as is the pianistic gem April Preludes, op. 13, from 1937, four brief and highly varied pieces that represent a major stepping stone in Kapralova’s development as a composer and remain her most often performed and recorded work for solo piano. They are preceded by the earliest work on this disc - Five Piano Compositions, from 1931–1932. Kapralova was only sixteen and seventeen when she composed the pieces but their emotional maturity and pianistic demands set them apart from her earlier juvenilia. Kapralova coined the title Piano Suite for the first four of them and valued them enough to orchestrate them three years later under the title Suite en miniature, op. 1. The fifth composition, with tempo indication Alla marcia funebre, later became her Funeral March, op. 2. The Variations sur le carillon de l’eglise Saint-etienne–du-Mont, op. 16 were composed in Paris in 1938. These variations on a theme, a form Kapralova favoured, are an exquisite example of the composer’s sophisticated musical vocabulary with its highly original harmonies, already firmly established in April Preludes. Kapralova subjected the theme to six variations as in the second movement of her sonata; here, however, the theme, based on a repetitive melodic pattern of the peal of bells from a Parisian church, is extremely brief and simple. The work was so admired by Bohuslav Martinu that he helped to have it published by La Sirène editions musicales in Paris the same year. The survey of Kapralova’s piano catalogue continues with her last work for piano solo - Dance for Piano (1939-1940), reconstructed for this recording by Giorgio Koukl from the only surviving sketch of the composition which was originally conceived as Two Dances for Piano, op. 23. The work was commissioned by one of Kapralova’s most notable interpreters, virtuoso pianist Rudolf Firkusny, but the second dance was likely never finished and our sketch remains the only expression of the entire composition. While we cannot be certain whether this is what the final composition would have looked like, as Kapralova was known to revise her sketches, the reconstructed score successfully captures the spirit of the piece. Our exploration of a remarkable musical voice of the twentieth century ends with five piano miniatures. Two Bouquets of Flowers, from 1935, are miniature musical poems, two melancholic reminiscences - the first entitled “Small Bouquet of Violets,” the second “Autumn Leaves.” Little Song, from 1936, is the composer’s only contribution to children’s piano literature. Ostinato Fox (1937) and Festive Fanfare (1940) were both intended as musical presents: Kapralova composed the first for her friend Jirinka Cernusakova, the daughter of Gracian Cernusak, an esteemed Brno musicologist, and the second as a birthday present to Sasenka Pucova, the twelve-year-old daughter of Cestmir Puc, one of Kapralova’s benefactors in Paris.

All of the piano pieces featured on this disc are available in print: a few were published during Kapralova’s lifetime (Grotesque Passacaglia, Little Song, April Preludes, and Variations sur le carillon), the others following the Kapralova revival in the first decade of this millennium. Some of this music has also been released on record; however, this release presents the most complete collection of Kapralova’s works for piano solo recorded to date, and features four world premieres: Two Bouquets of Flowers, Ostinato Fox, Festive Fanfare, and, most importantly, Dance for Piano.

Autres Œuvres pour piano

From my earliest compositions | Z mych nejranejsich skladeb 1924-1927.
1. V risi baji (In the realm of fables, from 1924).
2. Valka (War, from 1924).
3. V myslenkach (Lost in thoughts, from 1924);
4. Pristav (Harbour, from 1925).
5. Touha (Longing, from 1925);
6. Po bitve belohorske (After the battle on White Mountain, from 1925).
7. Na dalekou cestu (Before the long journey, from 1925).
8. Valse triste (1927).

Sketch book | Skicar-ukoly. Piano. 1929-1933.

First school works | Prvni prace ze skoly.  | 10 sketches composed Nov. 1930-Feb. 1931 (includes an earlier version of Andante, No. 3 from opus 1).

Funeral march | Smutecni pochod, op. 2. 1932. Originally Part 5 (Tempo di marcia funebre) of Five piano compositions.

Spring on the meadows | Jaro na polonine.  | Miniature for piano. 1936

Three small piano pieces for children | Tri klavirni skladbicky pro deti. Piano. | Three piano miniatures. 1937
1. Jarni popevek (Spring tune).
2. Prvni bol (First sorrow).
3. Ukolebavka (Lullaby).

Christmas wishes | Vanocni prani. Piano. 1937. Six miniatures for piano, composed for friends as Christmas gifts.