CD REVIEWS: JAN BARTOŠ PLAYS MOZART
The album has been chosen among the Best Recordings of 2017 according to the live review site Seen and Heard International.
Closer to the end of the year, this time not in the concert hall but on disc, an outstanding Supraphon Mozart recording had me thinking forwards rather than back. Jan Bartoš is not yet a name to be reckoned with in the way Moravec and Frager are, but his live performance of the D-minor Concerto with the late-lamented Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic is evidence of a talent surely destined to achieve comparably vivid inspirations and illuminations many times in the years to come. From the very first notes of the solo part, Bartoš offers playing that might be characterized as ‘full of thinking’ – reminiscent, perhaps, of what we used to hear in the speech of Sir John Gielgud or the singing of Sir Peter Pears. It is no more than appropriate that two such masters of the voice should come to mind, for Bartoš’s pianism spans the gamut from speaking eloquence to singing grace with the utmost naturalness.
Bernard Jacobson, The Best of 2017, Seen and Heard International, January 2018
Jan Bartoš, on the other hand, plays on a modern piano and is joined by a steel-strung quartet with the standard line-up for K414. The acoustic here is more spacious, allowing for greater ease of balance between the instruments, although you are aware throughout that Bartoš is careful never to eclipse his partners. In the hymnlike slow movement he spins a beguiling, sustained melody that contrasts wonderfully with his sprightly playing elsewhere. It seems almost impertinent to refer at last to Bartoš’s D minor Concerto with the full forces of the Czech PO under the late Jiří Bělohlávek, recorded in May 2013. This displays all the characterful acumen the pianist brings to K414, with some beautiful woodwind-playing – at last! – from the Czech players.
David Threasher, Gramophone, October 2017
These live recordings come with Alfred Brendel’s endorsement: Bartos pairs the turbulent D minor concerto with chamber arrangement of the earlier A major as a quasi-piano quintet. The late Belohlavek and his superb orchestra revel in Mozart’s dark, dramatic harmonies, recalling Don Giovanni, while the soloist’s crisp articulation and singing legato are never far from the spirit of the composer’s sunnier comedies.
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, August 20th 2017
On this very beautiful Mozart release Jan Bartos plays both piano concertos No. 20 and 12 very elegantly. His performance is stylistically perfect, technically flawless and playful. Belohlavek and the Czech Philharmonic supply an excellent accompaniment in the Concerto No. 20. The Concerto No. 12 is presented as piano quintet. Bartos and the Dolezal Quartet play the piece with the greatest ease and arouse much enthusiasm.
***** 5 out of 5 stars. Remy Franck, Pizzicato Magazine, January 2018
What a courage, I think to myself every time someone presents a new Mozart release to the public. Is it possible at all to still come up with something outstanding here? I got to know the Czech piano player Jan Bartoš through this CD. He studied under Ivan Moravec, then Leon Fleisher and Alfred Brendel. The late Jiří Bělohlávek conducted his concert debut in 1999 which marked the beginning of a friendship that brought to life Mozart’s D minor Concerto three times in 2013. It never came around to making more recordings and so Bartoš completed the CD with a chamber performance of the Concerto A major. Bartoš possesses a very lively and richly colourful keystroke, as proven by the audience’s lively ovation at the end of the recording. Bělohlávek presents himself as an attentive accompanist who excellently supports the rhythmic nuances of the soloist as well as arouses his philharmony to a play full of expression. Also for this reason – apart from the good piano sound – I recommend this recording. The chamber interpretation, recorded live as well, also makes Bartoš’s qualities stand out, albeit on a slightly less brilliantly recorded grand piano. Definitely worth a listen!
Ludwig Flich, HiFi & Recordings, September 2017
This CD excels by the virtuosic interpretation of the soloist Jan Bartoš. The captured recording of a concert performance emphasizes the musical sensitivity of the performer gifted with a completely unique inspiration in the famous Piano Concerto no. 20 in D minor K. 466 which is incredibly lucid and full of light. The Czech Philharmony, loyal to it musical tradition, is simply perfect. The recording is accompanied by one of the most popular concertos from Mozart, no. 12 in A major K414 in a chamber version for a string quartet and piano. It is a work which belongs rather to the area of chamber music and never lacks musical appeal. Jan Bartoš shines here as well and proves that he is a brilliant artist. It is a seminal recording – a true gift for the ears.
Philippe Adelfang, Musique pour tous, October 2017
It is not, I think, an exaggeration to suggest that this release establishes Jan Bartoš at a stroke as an artist worthy to stand with the most eminent masters of Mozart interpretation. His performance is a rich treasury of insights and of telling points made without the slightest exaggeration. The last few notes of the lead back to the first-movement recapitulation, for example, capture the formal significance of the phrase while avoiding the sort of overemphasis that I have heard from even so well-respected a pianist as Mitsuko Uchida, who can sound at that juncture as if she would really rather be playing Chopin. Rhythmically, Bartoš blends rocklike stability with a willingness to bend the meter as expression and structural cohesion demand; his account of the finale manages to be at the same time hell-for-leather and blessedly secure.
Fanfare Magazine, September 2017
CD REVIEWS: JAN BARTOŠ PLAYS SCHUMANN, SMETANA AND TALICH
Here is a fascinating release by the young, prize-winning, Czech pianist Jan Bartoš…..Let me begin with the least known Talich and work backwards in time. There’s only one word to describe these pieces by Talich, lovely; and only one way to describe Bartoš’s playing of them, lovingly. It was indeed a happy accident that Bartoš was able to include them on this disc, and it makes one wonder what else Talich may have composed. I, for one, would be eager to hear more of it, especially as it is so beautifully played here by Bartoš.
Smetana’s Dreams may be familiar to a select number of readers from recordings by Radoslav Kvapil, Jan Novotný, Kathryn Stott, and one or two others. Yet despite having been a highly accomplished pianist and having composed quite prolifically for the piano, Smetana’s enduring legacy lies in his symphonic tone poems, primarily Má vlast, his opera, The Bartered Bride, and his String Quartet in E Minor, titled “From My Life.”…..These are mature, sophisticated, and harmonically advanced pieces, and in the case of the first and last of them, fairly glitzy virtuosic showpieces concentrated in quite short timeframes. Bartoš’s shines throughout the cycle, unruffled by the technical challenges, and bringing out in equal measure the Chopinesque lyricism, the Schumanesque fantasy, and the Lisztian grand gesture and keyboard sonorities. Given this stunning performance by Jan Bartoš, I can’t imagine this work not becoming as beloved a part of the standard piano repertoire as Schumann’s Fantasie with which Bartoš concludes his program.
The Fantasie, of course, needs no introduction. With approximately 175 recordings in the catalog, it edges out Kinderszenen, Schumann’s next most popular work. The Fantasie may well be Schumann’s most technically taxing work; at the time of its composition in 1836 (revised in 1839), it contained pianistic difficulties that were unprecedented at the time. Even Liszt, to whom Schumann dedicated the piece, found it so challenging that he played it in private but wouldn’t risk performing it publicly. It wasn’t until 10 years after Schumann’s death that Clara began taking the work on tour with her. I’m not sure what either Liszt or Clara would have to say about Jan Bartoš’s performance of the Fantasie on this disc, but for whatever my opinion is worth, I will say it’s terrific. Countless pianists have mastered the score’s technical challenges, but that’s only half the battle. To make music of Schumann’s elaborate and exquisite sandcastle in sound, the pianist is constantly pitted against the next wave that threatens to wash edifice away. It’s only the realization of impermanence—that all is Fantasie and dream—that enables the player to lose himself in the moment and, in so doing, to seize the essence of Schumann’s vision. Bartoš surrenders himself body and soul to Schumann’s dream in a way I don’t think I’ve quite heard another pianist do in this work. Absolutely riveting. Very strongly recommended.
Jerry Dubins, Fanfare Magazine, August 2017
Jan Bartoš is the last student of the piano class of legendary pianist Ivan Moravec. On his debut cd dedicated to the memory of Ivan Moravec we can hear the full recording of a recital held at the Martinů Hall on 21 May 2016. It opens with Smetana’s Dreams – a cycle of six programmatic pieces which are largely of a lyrical character – known among pianists for its technical as well as expressive complexity. Jan Bartoš evidently feels very much at home in this sphere of music. The way he plays Smetana is truly magical – his piano playing is at once poetic, lucid, soft, colourful and melodious. His technique is brilliant, however it is not an end in itself – it is always fully devoted to the work and the composer. Already during the very recital, I considered Bartoš’s rendition of Smetana’s Dreams to be one of the most beautiful one I had ever heard and after having listened to the recording I have absolutely no need to revise my impression in any way. On the CD, Smetana’s Dreams are succeeded by a rarity: Sketches for Piano written by conductor Václav Talich. In his delicate interpretation, the short, less than 2 minute long pieces, which are generally in a looser tempo, are definitely much more than a “mere” rarity and are undoubtedly deserving of our attention. The pianist concludes his CD with a grandiose, technically complex Phantasy C major, op. 17 of Robert Schumann. Its first movement was described by the composer himself as “the most passionate piece he has ever created”. However, Bartoš approaches this “passion” in a very delicate and chaste manner. His interpretation is no less lucid than his rendition of Smetana’s Dreams, which does great good to Schumann’s music. Even the second movement, conceived by the composer as a “triumphant march”, is played by the pianist according to the prescribed “energish” instruction, but also with extraordinary elegance. Schumann’s Phantasy surprisingly culminates by a slow movement which resembles a Chopinian nocturno. The listener is bound to revel in the pianist’s velvet-soft touch and softly melancholic atmosphere of this tender “poem in tones”.
Věroslav Němec, Harmonie, January 2017
Jan Bartoš opened the evening with the magnificently complex Fantasia in C, op. 17 by Robert Schumann, which places enormous demands on the interpreter both in terms of technical skills and artistic expression. The first two movements were played with a romantic flair producing a nearly orchestral sound. The lyrical closing movement in its poetic cantabile sound resembled Chopin’s nocturnes… As the second piece came Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A, KV 414… Mozart’s tunes are very rarely heard in such a beautiful and natural cantilena as Mr. Bartoš demonstrated throughout his interpretation… The artist wrapped up his recital with Dreams by Bedřich Smetana. This cycle in six movements ranks among the composer’s most extensive and most difficult piano compositions. It found an excellent interpreter in Jan Bartoš. The pianist played it with evident enthusiasm, full of colours and emotions, with brilliant technique, and applying great imagination and exceptionally convincing rubato – so much so that each movement sounded in his interpretation as a unique, once-in-a-lifetime poetic story. Harmonie, May 25, 2016
The double concerto by Bohuslav Martinů demonstrated an enormous drive proving once again the great power of Prague Chamber Philharmonic’s strings. It was played in style, with evident precision and impeccable technique. The pianist Jan Bartoš’s gentle touch at the piano, and the sensitive entrances of the timpanist Pavel Rehberger significantly contributed to the excellent outcome of the piece. Harmonie, April 27, 2016
This was a number-one event of the whole season. Jiří Bělohlávek with the Czech Philharmonic and Jan Bartoš as the soloist have proven beyond the point that Bohemia still offers world-class performances. Lidové noviny, June 15, 2015
Both the lyrical and emotional spirit of Dvořák’s Piano Concerto in G-Minor were rendered with a rarely seen convincingness by pianist Jan Bartoš. It was an unprompted, spontaneous and unusually warm performance. From the very beginning, his interpretation captivated the audience with its emotional charge and gracefulness. OperaPlus, June 13, 2015
Bartoš is one of the best European pianists. In his own right, the first-class host enchanted everyone with the colorfulness and might of his sound, which he produced with easiness and refined impeccability. Il Roma, June 2014
Jan Bartoš is a perceptive, emotional, and sophisticated interpreter. Critica Classica, June 2014
Pianist Jan Bartos, violinist Josef Spacek, and cellist Tomáš Jamník are among the most interesting young Czech musicians. Once again, they showcased the quality of their graceful and exquisite collaborative musicianship with each other, granting the audience a notable experience in solo and chamber music. Harmonie, May 2014
The young unorthodox soloist Jan Bartoš turned out a real discovery for the audience. His tone was very interesting. He paid great attention to the dynamic nuances and expression, yet at the same time, his interpretation was very distinctive. He chose a not-so-common approach to the interpretation, and won the hearts with his musicality. Harmonie, June 2013
Jan Bartoš is one of my most impressive and interesting younger colleagues. In him, virtuosity is coupled with deeply serious musicianship.
Jan Bartoš is a very rare type of a musician, a real personality. His performances very much resemble those of Lazar Berman, or the young Sviatoslav Richter.
Jan Bartoš is an extremely talented artist, who has already proven his qualities on numerous occasions.
Jan Bartoš has always shown a wonderful talent combined with admirable approach towards any artistic task chosen by, or given to, him. His interpretations always represent a unique marriage of heart and brain and are very touching.