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What a marvellous disc this is. Seventy-four minutes of delightful and unfamiliar music (four of the works receiving first recordings here), beautifully played and presented. Jan Cikker (1911-1989) was one of the most prominent Slovak composers of the last century, best known for his orchestral and operatic works. The earliest of his piano works here is a Sonatina (1933) composed during his time as a student at the Prague Conservatoire. Along with four of seven surviving student fugues of the same vintage, the Sonatina reveals a clear- thinking and versatile musical mind.

The two sets of variations showcase the harmony of brevity that is such an appealing side of Cikker’s compositional character. Theme with Variations dates from 1935 and is a fine set, full of light and shade, that deserves to be in the repertoire (albeit occasional) of many more pianists than at present. The Variations on a Slovak Folksong came four decades later and is a subtler work still in its handling of the theme. Both sets arrange the variations into musically cogent, expressive structures.

Tatra Brooks: Three Studies for Piano (1954) is a superb triptych offering different vistas of these mountains from those created by Novák in his symphonic poem In the Tatra Mountains. The Two Compositions for Youth (1948) and What the Children Told Me (1962) are for children but do not write down to their intended audience. Jordana Palovičová (an erstwhile student of Yonty Solomon and James Tocco) has the measure of the music and proves a most sympathetic exponent. Excellent sound, too.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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