Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Otakar OSTRCIL (1879-1935)
Symphony in A major (1905) [39.50]
Sinfonietta (1921) [37.34]
Prague SO/JirÍ Behlolávek
rec Smetana Hall, Prague, 18-19 Feb 1980; 16, 18 Nov 1983, AAD
SUPRAPHON 11 1826-2 011 [77.32]

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Ostrcil's Symphony splays out between the voice of his revered master Zdenek Fibich (the doyen of overt Czech late-romanticism) and something that approximates to Mahler but without the neurosis. Dryads dance amid the sunlit glades in the Weberian skittishness of the Quasi maestoso. The horns of the Prague orchestra have a pleasant warble (I can easily imagine them in the great horn theme from Tchaikovsky 5). The horn dominance carries over into the relaxation of the Moderato. The Vivace steps out gamely and hustles playfully along in a synthesis of Dvorak and early Mahler.

His much later Sinfonietta is quite a contrast. It is only a few minutes shorter but is a jaundiced and disillusioned world away from the Symphony. It is to the Symphony what Suk's Asrael is to Suk's own Op. 14 Symphony. Angst and weariness (a transformation wrought by the Great War) swagger and shamble through the Moderato and I hear parallels with the Miaskovsky symphonies of that period - including the enigmatic Thirteenth. Miaskovsky could so easily have written the long winding clarinet solo at the start of the Andantino. The note-writer claims that the score is 'optimistic and sunny'. This does not come across to me though I grant that a more life-enhancing updraft struggles prominently in the Molto allegro. Overall I hear a work of complexity in technical execution, in psychological make-up and in mood portrayal.

The recording renders the strings with an unflattering edge but with nicely roughened textures for brass and woodwind. There is some unexceptionable zooming in on woodwind and brass. Good notes and a substantial playing time.

Rob Barnett

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