Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

MANFRED TROJAN (1907-83) Fairy Tales and Folk Songs Prince Bajaja (1950 arr 1970) [21.55] The Emperor's Nightingale (1948 arr 1964) [21.22] Czech and Slovak Folk Songs [15.54] Václav Hudecek (violin) Pavel Dreser (accordion) Lubomir Brabec (guitar)   rec 4-6 March 1994, Prague SUPRAPHON 11 2203-2 131 [59.26]

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A collection of arrangements for a trio may not sound the most appetising of confections and yet if you do not hear this disc you miss out on an experience of miniature yet vivid enchantment.

Only two of the items are film music and these two are arrangements of music written for animations from the bleak Czechoslovakian days of 1948 and 1950. The visual style recalls some of the efforts in the recent BBCTV series of half-hour Shakespeare animations - collaborations between Russian TV and BBC Wales.

The CD leaflet carries three colour photos from the two films. The music and the appearance of the films reminds me of the Czech animations I used to watch as a child on early 1960s TV - series such as The Singing Ringing Tree and other warmingly strange fables.

The two films were the work of Jiri Trnkas whose other animations include The Good Soldier Schweik, Spalicek (Martinu wrote a ballet on the same subject), Legends of Old Bohemia and Midsummer Night's Dream.

The Prince Bajaja suite employs music that is husky, sadly antique, brooding with pavane-like reflection. Its sound-world is that of some miniature fairground amid a bonsai forest lit with child's candles and Chinese lanterns. Elizabethan dumpes and Susato's Danserye also stalk this lost courtly world. Bajaja and the Dragon is lightly macabre and the final section of the suite reels with the intoxication of the violin's song hand in hand with the Mendelssohn violin concerto.

The Emperor's Nightingale has a quasi-Oriental charm. The nightingale speaks through the violin's song, high in pitch and sweetly intoned like the music from Sibelius' Humoresques. The Imperial Swans are depicted in a light wash of beautiful sound. Other memorable voices and moments include Viennese gemütlichkeit, Mozartian dances, an Emperor's March on which you can warm your chapped hands, non-cloying sentimentality and the pinched song of an automaton nightingale.

The folk song arrangements take us through many worlds: high pastures, village polkas and round dances, bierkeller cheer with foaming steins, nods, winks and snores and the ecclesiastical sincerity of the Wenceslas hymn (best known for Suk's Meditation for strings - every bit as strong as the Barber Adagio) and the Tziganery of the final song: Four Girls.

The music is recorded as arranged for a trio of violin, guitar and accordion. This is sound is bound to remind you of the Viennese Schrammel brothers' ensemble of two guitars, violin and accordion. Trojan magics from the trio a great host of crystalline clear sounds and emotional apparatus.

So: had your fill of Herrmann? Suffering Waxman burnout? OD'd on Korngold? Sated on Williams? Glutted with Goldsmith or exhausted by Rózsa? If so why not broaden or vary your horizons with the palate cleansing clarity of this fine Czech composer's film music.

The span of film music is so much broader, richer and varied than Hollywood and Ealing might suggest. The Iron Curtain countries produced hectares of material and who is to say that it is to be dismissed en masse as shallow flag-waving and superficial tub-thumping? There is none of that in these Trojan pieces.

Trojan's musical imagination is bright and dun - shadow, shade and brilliance. These fairy-tale fantasy visions are delightfully naïve and well worth your attention. Recommended.


Rob Barnett

PS I hope to review a Supraphon collection of Czech orchestral film music at some stage.


Rob Barnett

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