Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Jaroslav HAŠEK
Osudy dobré vojáka Švejka [The Good Soldier Švejk]
Read by Pavel Landovský
ARCO DIVA UP 0049-2 831 [79.46] and UP0061-2 381 [67.21] 2 CDs available separately


The Good Soldier Švejk – or more formally and laconically The Good Soldier Švejk and his Fortunes in the World War – has long outlasted its anarchic, capricious, bigamist, fabulist author. Hašek died in 1923 leaving the fourth volume unfinished and its subsequent conclusion by his friend Karel Vanĕk has not generally been accepted as authentic. It was certainly dismissed by Cecil Parrott in his first authoritative English translation – which was as late as 1973, earlier editions having greatly bowdlerised Hašek’s earthiness and demotic power. The Prague vernacular and the Rabelaisian vulgarity of Hašek’s creation co-exist with his own autobiographical experience as a nationalist Czech of occasionally paradoxical (not least frequently held anarchic) viewpoints. As with his own life so with his immortal creation; Švejk has been taken as a holy fool, an embodiment of passive resistance, a dolt with an instinctual understanding of power relationships, the spirit of Czech nationalist anti-authoritarianism in its widest form. In fact whether there is anything specifically rooted in the Czech Lands about Švejk is a moot point. He could quite as easily, but for the patois, be Slovak or Galician or any other denizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Whatever Švejk is or isn’t and however he may now be perceived – and there was a long time in which the book was widely repudiated by the Czechoslovak intelligentsia as an embarrassment or aberration – he remains to many Czechs and Slovaks full of, as my father-in-law said to me when he heard I was writing this, Pravda a Humor. Arco Diva has now enlisted the distinguished actor Pavel Landovský to read what I take to be the entire text in Czech. I have listened to volumes one and two and they cover the first eight chapters, from The Good Soldier Švejk Intervenes in the Great War to Švejk the Malingerer (Penguin 1973). I am no expert on the current editorial state of the book, which has always been something of a desultory mess due to Hašek’s cavalier attitude to his work but this seems set to be a Complete Listener in Anglo-American terms; a talking book that faithfully mirrors the text. There do seem to be a few nips and tucks however. The sentence beginning To musíte jít v cylindru…[Slovenský Spisovateľ, Bratislava 1985 p14] from the opening chapter is missing for example and other instances of slight excisions have presumably been made throughout. Landovský is a gruff, eruptive presence, his lived-in voice rumbling baritonally suddenly to explode in a wheedling uproar – the kind of voice that is perpetually on the brink of a hoarse, unstoppable, cardiac-inducing cough. One of his drollest turns is in the third chapter, where he relishes the famous "paragraph" passage for its considerable comic potential.

A fine start then to what promises to be a noble endeavour in enshrining this classic on CD. The discs are graced by Josef Lada’s famous caricatures, which, in one of those Hašek ironies, the writer never lived to see. No notes as such – some introductory words from Landovský are printed in volume one.

Jonathan Woolf

The Arcodiva catalogue is now offered by MusicWeb


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