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Release Date: May 22, 2020
Catalog #: NV6286
Format: Digital & Physical

Vytautas Smetona Plays Brahms, Chopin & Smetona

Vytautas Smetona piano

Exalted and expressive to just the right degree, Ohio-born pianist Vytautas Smetona fuses his American upbringing with his Lithuanian heritage in his recordings of Brahms, Chopin and his own work. His second release on Navona exhibits technical command of the highest order, profound musical understanding and a clarity of interpretation which is seldom heard.

No wonder, perhaps, considering that Smetona's recording debut in 1979 already boasted the ambitious combination of Chopin, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff; and what was an extraordinary musical feat already then has since ripened and mature into a sensible, sensitive approach to piano literature which has few equals. Where most concert pianists are afraid to fully dive into the depths of dynamic and expressive range, Smetona does so with bravura. This benefits him immensely: for example, there is a furor in Brahms' fortissimi which is a refreshingly far cry from the rather coddled, mannered pianistic style so common today. Smetona strives against the stream, thunderously and energetically; it's how Beethoven would have played Brahms – and it's fantastic.

But there's more, namely an entirely different quality when it comes to lyrical passages, particularly those abundant in Chopin's dances. Smetona plays them with a soft rationality, a logical kind of tenderness. This classical playing style applied to Romantic piano literature brings out every detail with elevated contrast.

Nestled between Brahms and Chopin is Smetona's own work, Fantasy in F minor (2015). It fits perfectly with the program, at times reminiscent of the former and other times of the latter, with echoes of Rachmaninoff here and there. The tonal language is late-Romantic, with the improvisatory element firmly reigning over this composition. It's easy to imagine it as a modern cadenza to a concerto by Brahms (or, if one were to be audacious, one by Kalkbrenner or Norbert Burgmüller).

VYTAUTAS SMETONA PLAYS BRAHMS, CHOPIN, AND SMETONA could only be more aptly titled if one were to add one word to it: EXCEPTIONALLY.


Hear the full album on YouTube

"Refreshing in its personality and artistic imperative"

Performing Arts Monterey Bay

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Piano Sonata No. 3 in F Minor, Op. 5: I. Allegro maestoso Johannes Brahms Vytautas Smetona, piano 10:09
02 Piano Sonata No. 3 in F Minor, Op. 5: II. Andante espressivo Johannes Brahms Vytautas Smetona, piano 10:41
03 Piano Sonata No. 3 in F Minor, Op. 5: III. Scherzo. Allegro energico - Trio Johannes Brahms Vytautas Smetona, piano 5:00
04 Piano Sonata No. 3 in F Minor, Op. 5: IV. Intermezzo. Andante molto Johannes Brahms Vytautas Smetona, piano 3:08
05 Piano Sonata No. 3 in F Minor, Op. 5: V. Finale. Allegro moderato ma rubato Johannes Brahms Vytautas Smetona, piano 7:50
06 Fantasy in F Minor Vytautas Smetona Vytautas Smetona, piano 9:51
07 Waltzes, Op. 34, B. 64: No. 2 in A Minor Frédéric Chopin Vytautas Smetona, piano 5:17
08 Mazurkas, Op. 59, B. 157: No. 3 in F-Sharp Minor Frédéric Chopin Vytautas Smetona, piano 3:34
09 Etudes, Op. 10, B. 42: No. 8 in F Major "Sunshine" Frédéric Chopin Vytautas Smetona, piano 2:25
10 Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52, B. 146 Frédéric Chopin Vytautas Smetona, piano 11:26

All selections were recorded at Clonick Hall, Oberlin College in Oberlin OH

Tracks 1 - 5 were recorded on April 3, 2018 and April 2, 2019. Track 9 was recorded on March 22, 2018, and April 2, 2019. Tracks 7, 8, 10 were recorded on March 24, 2018. Track 6 was recorded on March 22, 2018.

Recording session engineer & producer Paul Eachus

Piano Steinway Model D, Hamburg

Cover photo Catherine Smetona, Glacier National Park June 2019

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil

VP, Audio Production Jeff LeRoy
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Sara Warner

Artist Information

Vytautas Smetona


Pianist and composer Vytautas Smetona was born in Cleveland OH. His parents, Birute and Julius, and paternal grandparents narrowly escaped the 1940 Soviet invasion and subsequent occupation of Lithuania. Smetona’s grandfather, Antanas Smetona, was the last President of independent Lithuania. The family arrived and settled in the United States in 1941 via a route through Germany, Portugal, and Brazil. Vytautas’ father, Julius, was an attorney, and his mother was a musician.