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Karel Ančerl Conducts
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Tzigane Concert Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra (1924) *
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)

Symphonie espagnole for Violin and Orchestra (1873) *
Karl Amadeus HARTMANN (1905-1963)

Concerto funèbre for Violin and String Orchestra (1939) +
Ida Haendel (violin) and + André Gertler (violin)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Karel Ančerl
Rec. * Dvořák Hall of Rudolfinum, Prague March 25-27, 1964; + Domovina Studio, Prague April 29, 1968

SUPRAPHON SU 3677-2 011 [65:51]


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Under the inspired conducting of Karel Ančerl (1908-1973), the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra reached the pinnacle of the finest of international orchestras. Ančerl’s many Supraphon recordings with the orchestra gained world-wide praise and won many prestigious awards. This album is listed number seventeen in that label’s ‘Gold Edition’ reissues in excellent 24-bit digitally remastered sound. Every one of Ida Haendel’s breathlessly stated little notes in Ravel’s dazzling virtuoso showpiece, Tzigane, is, as we used to say, ‘as sharp as a gnat’s kneecap.’

Haendel’s dark sultry gypsy-like appearance seemed so suitable for this brilliant Ravel show-stopper. Here she delivers a fiery and ravishing virtuoso performance surmounting all the work’s prodigious technical demands, its many swift shifts of mood, rhythm and tempi. There is passion here but also a deep affecting melancholy. Ančerl’s accompaniment is nicely balanced with Haendel’s violin; it sparkles and has plenty of attack and atmosphere.

Ida Haendel (b. 1928), British by Polish descent, was awarded the CBE in 1991 for her exceptional contribution to music. She made numerous recordings for Supraphon including the beautifully expressive and technically immaculate reading of Lalo’s tuneful Symphonie espagnole, colourfully based on Spanish dance forms. It is also included on this album. Her shaping of the first movement’s big tune is movingly heartfelt and her reading of the exuberant Rondo is sheer vivacity. Evident throughout is Ančerl’s meticulous care for orchestral clarity and detail as well as his dramatic emotional involvement. Example after example of his pliant and colourful readings come to mind, notably the opening pages of the Scherzando and the intensity of the lovely Andante and the colour and verve of his Rondo.

In passing it is worth noting that another classic Czech Philharmonic recording of the Symphonie espagnole is available on Virgin Classics VC5 45022-2. This 1992-93 version is conducted by Libor Pešek, with Christian Tetzlaff. It is coupled with Dvořák’s Violin Concerto.

Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Concerto funèbre was conceived during the first days of World War II. The shock and woe of those times, that must have been particularly painfully felt by Czech listeners, is starkly expressed in the ultra-brief 1˝ minute opening movement that quotes an early Bohemian chorale. Hungarian violinist, André Gertler eloquently expresses the desolation and anguish in the elegiac Adagio second movement. before awakening from passive melancholy to bristling defiance and attack in the Allegro di molto att. third movement. The concerto’s beautiful and affecting finale is in tragic chorale-style mood, a lament citing a Russian revolutionary dirge, Immortal Sacrifice.

Splendid performances of the popular Ravel and Lalo works, and a heartfelt reading of Hartmann’s vision of the tragedy that was WWII, make this a confident recommendation.

Ian Lace

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