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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Viktor KALABIS (b.1923)
Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings Op. 42 (1975) [27.25]
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1 Op. 17 (1959) [21.38]
Five Romantic Love Songs to words by Rainer Maria Rilke Op. 38 (1974) [15.26]
Symphonic Variations for large Orchestra Op. 24 (1964) [13.01]
Zuzana Růžičková (harpsichord)
Petr Škvor (violin)
Ernst Haefliger (ten)
Prague Symphony Orchestra/Viktor Kalabis (concertos)
Czech Chamber Orchestra/Viktor Kalabis
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Václav Neumann
rec. Rudolfinum, Prague 6 Jan 1980 (harpsichord concerto), 19 Feb 1977 (songs), 9 Feb 1968 (Variations); Czech Radio Studio, Prague 30 Nov 1984 (violin concerto) ADD
SUPRAPHON SU 3736-2 911 [77.55]


Viktor Kalabis studied privately in Prague. He made his way as a conductor and also recorded for Czech radio at the Ostrava studios. He has, to date, written five symphonies, eleven concertos, seven string quartets, two cantatas and a ballet. Kalabis's music has not travelled outside the Czech Republic so this generously packed compilation should help spread the word.

The Harpsichord Concerto is dedicated to the composer's wife whose eminent recordings of the Poulenc and Martinů concertos have for years been staples of first the LP catalogue and latterly the CD. Kalabis's concerto is in three movements. The outer ones have the notes rushing in pealing relentlessly Gothic torrents with the instrument probably recorded with much more prominence than you would hear in the concert hall. No matter. The andante is full of a wrenching bleakness with none of the Martinů-like 'lift' of the first movement. It steers a course through the same mindscape as the finale of the Othmar Macha Violin Concerto (on Arco Diva)

The Violin Concerto starts with awesome spleen but rapidly establishes itself in Olympian realms. This is a contemplative kingdom half way between Bax and Rawsthorne. This continues through the middle movement. The allegro vivace is almost Walton - almost Frankel. The concerto is dedicated to the memory of Hana Webrová-Hlavsová who died under tragic circumstances in 1960. This work has some superbly lyrical Mediterranean sunset writing - especially in the finale. Quite a discovery, I should say.

The Largo is the oldest recording in this anthology - not that it sounds deficient. It is tough going - not specially dissonant but certainly bleak. The music retains long lines but it is, overall, a rather fatalistic piece with little to hold the hope of rising from the gloom. The notewriter suggests that its negative charge reflected life in a totalitarian society. Impressive if not endearing is the writing for the horns of the Czech Philharmonic, the orchestra who commissioned the piece.

Haefliger was still in incredible voice, steady and limpidly coloured, in 1977 when he recorded the Five Romantic Love Songs. These are tense but highly romantic in the jewelled and glistening manner of Schreker and Zemlinsky if without quite the complexity of those two composers. They are not at all difficult and Haefliger is a joy to hear. Listen to his all-conquering held high note at the end of the penultimate song, Liebeslied. The booklet does not give the words although the very good liner notes by Jiří Pilka give a brief summary of each song. The words were translated into Czech by the composer and his wife. I can imagine these appealing to those who have discovered the pleasures of Geoffrey Bush's (Summer Serenade) and Carey Blyton's (Lachrymae) songs with orchestra.

I hope that Supraphon will do something similarly generous and will-informed for Kabelac, Jeremias and other seriously neglected Czech figures of the last century. They certainly have the archives to sustain such a venture.

Rob Barnett


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