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Jan Sedivka; An 80th Birthday celebration
Larry SITSKY (b 1934)
Concerto for Violin, Orchestra and Female Voices [No 1] Mysterium Cosmographicum (1972)
Violin Concerto No. 3 I Ching; The Eight Kua (Trigrams) (1987)
Jan Sedivka (violin) with
Female Voices from the Tasmanian Opera Company Chorus and The Lyric Singers with Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Vanco Cavdarski [No. 1] recorded Hobart, 1974
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Christopher Lyndon Gee [No. 3] recorded Hobart, 1992
TALL POPPIES TP124 [73.08]
AVAILABILITY Available in the UK from Seaford Music.
phone +44 (0) 1323 732553
fax +44 (0) 1323 417455
24 Pevensey Road
East Sussex BN21 3HP
United Kingdom
or if in difficulty you can contact the ever-helpful Tall Poppies direct:-
Tall Poppies Records
PO Box 373
Glebe NSW 2037
Though Larry Sitsky’s Violin Concertos are the focus of interest of this disc from a repertoire point of view, the name that first adorns the CD is that of the soloist and dedicatee of the works, the Czech born violinist Jan Sedivka. It was issued to time with his 80th birthday back in 1998 – though the recordings date from 1974 (No. 1) and 1992 (No. 3). So a word about Sedivka. He was a pupil of Kocian and Ševčik and afterwards of Thibaud in Paris. His travels across Europe led to London where he took further studies with Max Rostal and began to forge a noted career. He was a teacher at Trinity and Goldsmiths amongst others and had a London International Trio with whom he premiered some chamber works by Alan Bush. He left for Australia in 1961 settling in Tasmania where he became Director of the Conservatoire and inspired a host of new work for his instrument from amongst others Colin Brumby, Edward Cowie, Eric Gross and Sitsky. I first came across Sedivka’s name when I found a BBC Transcription recording he’d made with pianist Ruth Bauerova of Emil Axman’s Violin Sonata. Axman’s was hardly a big name – then or now – but I was intrigued and the performance is a good one. All this shows at least that Sedivka has always been a questing and adventurous musician, with a wide range of interests generally and ambitious for the future repertoire of the violin.

Larry Sitsky has dedicated his Violin Concertos Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 to Sedivka, a good friend. The first in 1972 takes Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum as its sub-title and poetic force. The musical material is derived from Busoni’s Faust – taking chordal progressions and other material - and is cast in five movements lasting thirty-six minutes. Doubtless Sitsky’s immersion in Busoni’s music, which does lend an impressionistic tint to it, in part derives from his studies with Busoni’s great pupil and propagandist, Egon Petri. The Concerto opens with an elusively complex violin cadenza, which forms the introduction. Sitsky’s scoring should be noted, as the violins and violas don’t make their appearance until towards the end of the work. Sitsky employs a battery of percussion at climactic moments and some driving lower string writing; the texture can also be eruptive and violent but there is also real lyrical expression here, albeit one with a keen edge to it. The central movement is slow and glinting (Harmonicus is the title Sitsky gives to it) with shafts of light flecking the score. In the final panel the chorus sings the titles of each movement before a return to the opening material via the agency of the soloist.

The Third Concerto (1987) is much more gently scored and was inspired by the I Ching. Thus the work is divided into eight sections – Water, Wind, Mountain and so on – and all are quite short, unified by the all-embracing theme. Sitsky, who was born in China but left when he was sixteen, attempts here to evoke the sound of Chinese music but not to replicate it; his approach is mystical and spiritual. Technically he makes use of the so-called Chinese string portamento with accompanying percussive support. Rhythmically there is plenty of dance material – as in the second movement Wind, a dance that is skittish and accompanied by a truly impressive Chinese brass section. There is an eternal horizon feel to Mountain and a brassy enveloping in the nocturnal Mist (that picks up the brass motif from Wind). Sitsky evokes these elements of Chinese music with great sensitivity and timbral and rhythmic intricacy. I particularly enjoyed the propulsively percussive writing in Heaven, a moto perpetuo, and the contemplative and elliptical Fire. Fittingly Earth explores the registral depth of the bass and the height of the flute in its encompassing wholeness.

Throughout, Sedivka is a protagonist and interweaver of distinction; he mediates between Sitsky’s elevated vision and the violin’s technical realities with perfect judgement. The recordings sound very well indeed and the notes are not too florid; just right, in fact.

Jonathan Woolf

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