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Karel HUSA (b.1921)

Deux Preludes (1966)*
Five Poems (1994)+
Recollections 91982)#
Serenade (1963)
Sato Moughalian (flute), Edward R Gilmore (clarinet) Laura Koepke (bassoon) *
Quintet of the Americas+
Quintet of the Americas and David Oei (piano)#
Quintet of the Americas/Perspectives Ensemble/David Gilbert (conductor)
Recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York 2001 except Deux Preludes, same location, 2003
NEW WORLD RECORDS 80571-2 [61.24]



The earliest work here is Deux Preludes, written in 1966. Husa’s ever-challenging but enlivening sonorities are generated with utter accomplishment and timbral imagination. There is even a vestige of neo-classicism in the central agitato of the first Prelude, with the outer panels retaining a rather quiescent organic growth. In the second Prelude we hear constant interplay of the three voices and changes of tempi – plenty of mutation, including moments of coiling intimacy and ending in a flurry. Five Poems explores birdcalls though not by direct imitation (even if Husa has admitted that he might have done so had not Messiaen got there first). Husa writes evocatively for fulsome clarinet, embraces a melancholy, grave horn for a funereal movement, charges the writing with multi-hued vivacity and fractiousness for a fight and wingless empyrean serenity for the final movement, Bird Flying High Above, with its soaring vantage in the motionless high.

Recollections dates from 1992 and is written for wind quintet and piano. Amongst the most extreme writing on the disc is the Andante that depicts a rain shower and its variations of patterns. The moderato is almost atonal and has guttural horn blasts to disrupt the ear whilst the fifth movement Vivace has piano treble flecked, flickering and elusive. The last movement comes as a kind of balm after the divisive and taut drama of these movements. Husa’s delightful Serenade ends the disc with a degree of lyric impressionism fused with late Romantic, almost Mahlerian compression. Not only that but there are some baroque figures as well that add gravity and nobility to the textures.

Performances are rightly expert – plenty of colour and abrasion where necessary. The booklet notes have covered a range of published and unpublished sources and quote wisely from Husa’s own writings. Some of these works are tough, sinewy and difficult – but much is toughly sensitive.

Jonathan Woolf


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