> Dances from the 17th and 18th Centuries [JP]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Dances from the 17th and 18th Centuries
Smrti Tanec
U naseho Barty
Five Dances
Dances from Zlata Koruna
Valachica
Dances from Hana
Tanecna
Ten Folk Dances from the 18th Century
Kotec
Three Dances from the time of the National Revival

Musica Bohemica conducted by Jaroslav Krcek.
recorded in the Studio Martinek in Prague, May 15 – 17 1995. DDD
PANTON 81 1430-2,[51.20]


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This disc is enormous fun, as well as being instructive. It is a celebration of the dance, and the only niggle I might possibly have is my own fault – it is a bit much to listen all the way through in one sitting. Each of the dances is only a couple of minutes long – indeed the longest is a huge 2:35, most of them being under 2 minutes. Aural indigestion sets in after ten or so dances, and I would recommend any listener who is not a period dance music fanatic, to restrict listening to 15 minutes or so of these wonderful dances.

Czech musicians have always been first rate at dances of this kind, remember the Czech Philharmonic in Dvořák Slavonic Dances et al. In these performances by Musica Bohemica there is the same lilt to the rhythms as in the earlier example. What we have here however is a totally different sound, a result of the early instruments being employed to recreate the atmosphere of the salon, pub or open air where these dances were originally performed.

The booklet supplied with this issue is very informative, telling how dance has been defined over the ages, and the problems we humans have had in getting the dance form accepted. Defined earlier by the poet Lamartine as "poetry of movement of the human body, rhythm, and harmony between music and movement". In Czech terms the dance was defined by the type of movement, and in the 17th Century these approximated to ritual, calendar and family dances, guild dances, dances related to various annual festivals and folk customs, dance plays, competitive and imitative dances, social dances of the noble, urban and rural environments, dances of the individual professions, estates and social groups. You can see that there is a huge variation in classification of the dance, and quite frankly, these jolly pieces do not give up their source of provenance very easily.

A much more salutary factor is that no matter what category the dance belonged to, both the Church and / or the civil authorities did not like these activities, seeing them as pagan and causing the participants to lose control and end up doing things that the po-faced leaders of the Church and state did not approve of. Given their influence over the general population, it is not hard to understand that this subversive material remained hidden for ages, and has started to appear as music historians start to uncover sources for this material.

As with many areas like this, the activities will out, and here, on this disc we have sheer ebullience played with extreme gusto for our enjoyment. Provided you play this a little at a time you will get enormous enjoyment from this issue. All the dances are apparently World premieres, the recording quality is superb, catching the artists obviously enjoying themselves enormously, so if the repertoire attracts you, there is no need to hesitate.

John Phillips


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