Levoča’s Indian Summer, Levoča, Slovakia – review

Levoča’s Indian Summer – a six-year-old classical music festival in eastern Slovakia – prides itself on championing the little-known and undeservedly neglected. Its location ticks both boxes.

Nestling against the Tatras mountains, the small town of Levoča boasts an abundance of medieval architecture, a spectacular church famed for its Gothic wooden altar and a view over a rural landscape known as the “Slovak Paradise”. In 2009 it became a World Heritage Site. Still it lacks tourists.

Hence, this festival. Founded by the music historian David Conway and his Czech-born wife Nadia, it annually entices visitors with an Aladdin’s Cave of musical offerings: mainstream pieces, lesser-known repertoire by core composers, at least one world premiere each year and several central European works. Perhaps most interesting of all is its promotion of Slovak composers, usually overshadowed by their Czech contemporaries.

The final concert aptly demonstrated this particular strategy, its main attraction being the Piano Quartet, Op. 6 by the 20th-century Slovak composer Eugen Suchoň – probably best known for his opera Krútňava. Since his death in 1993, Suchoň has rarely figured on the international scene. But under communism he was a national icon, acclaimed for his taut command of form and strong sense of lyricism, informed by Slovak folk music. Though the Piano Quartet is one of his early works – dating from the 1930s – it already displays both these qualities, while betraying the influence of the Second Viennese School. This performance from the pianist Jordana Palovičová, violinist Igor Karško, violist Maxim Rysanov and cellist Jozef Luptak reflected an unashamed passion for this music. Suchoň deserves to be better known abroad.

The rest of the programme spotlighted these artists individually. Karško gave a clean, unfussy performance of Bloch’s rhapsodic Suite No. 2 for Solo Violin; Rysanov brought a glossy sheen to Mendelssohn’s Viola Sonata. Luptak cloaked Britten’s Cello Sonata, Op. 65 in a warm sense of spontaneity. And Palovičová pivoted between the wildly contrasting piano parts with laser-like concentration.

As a whole, Levoča’s Indian Summer might benefit from sharpening its focus: with such a wide-ranging programme, it currently lacks a clear identity. Nevertheless, there is plenty of value here to be found by those willing to rummage.


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