ZUMI Legends

I’ve been listening to the ten Dvorak Legends played by ZUMI Piano Duo.

“ZUMI” comes from the two players. Zuzana & Mikolaj, or ZU + MI = ZUMI.

Zuzana Simurdova and Mikolaj Warszynski

Pianist Mikolaj Warszynski caught my attention with a pair of recordings, both reviewed in 2019.

I’ve now heard his duo partner Zuzana Simurdova on the video.

Do they pronounce that “Zoomey”? or “Tsu Me”? or even “Zsu-me”? (zs as in zsa-zsa). Given that he’s Polish & she’s Czech, both now living in Alberta (in Western Canada) I wonder whose phonetics to employ.

The Legends (“Legendy”) also have me thinking about names. The ten pieces of Op 59 by Antonin Dvorak from 1881, are about 45 minutes long when played as complete suite. Like his better known Op 46 Slavonic Dances of 1878, they were first composed for piano duo and later orchestrated. The versions you hear on radio are normally the orchestrated ones even if a purist (me) might prefer the original piano duo versions. The world has changed so much, the idea of the piano duo genre is antique, a vestige of the old world. One of my favorite scenes of the film Impromptu shows Chopin & Liszt playing a little bit of a Beethoven symphony reduced to piano duo (and maybe we’re to think it was Liszt who did the transcription). Before YouTube, CDs, LPs, gramophones, one might encounter unfamiliar music through reductions for piano either as player or listener. Making music in a space without an audience but captured for video seems particularly authentic for this magnificently anachronistic music-making.

I wonder what Dvorak understood by his title. I’d love to hear those who know Dvorak & his life tell me more about this. We have Hungarian Rhapsodies, Slavonic Dances, Ballades from Chopin, all of which lead me on to wonder about subtexts, stories, situations. Music may be abstract but that won’t stop us from associating, filling in blanks. The Legends suggest something poetic but with hints of national myth, subtler & less extroverted than the Slavonic Dances.

ZUMI give us authenticity, brilliant when necessary but not showing off. It’s interior music, thoughtful. We’re in a space apt for reflection. Yet some of the tunes grab you. The G-minor Legend #3 has some of the clever repetition & echoes that make it a bit of an ear-worm. The C-major #4 molto maestoso might remind you of Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance #1 aka “Land of Hope & Glory”, and please note the march was written about 20 years after Dvorak’s tune.

The link will be there until at least June 8th. I’ll be interested to see what ZUMI undertake next.

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