Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Vítĕslava KAPRÁLOVÁ (1915-1940)
Portrait of the Composer

Military Sinfonietta (1936-37) [14.34]
String Quartet (1935-36) [19.25]
April Preludes for piano (1937) [9.30]
Love Carol for voice and piano (Martinů; Kaprálová - two versions) (1938) [0.48+1.20]
Ritornell for cello and piano (1940) [4.13]
Partita for piano and string orchestra (1938) [19.26]
Waving Farewell for voice and orchestra (1937) [5.16]
Czech Symphony Orchestra, Brno/František Jílek
Janáček Quartet
Lenka Škorničkova (sop)
Vilém Přibyl (ten)
Ivan Měrka (cello)
Jitka Drobilková, Jiří Skovajsa, Jaroslav Smýkal (piano)

rec. Brno, 1974, 1975, 1982, 1991, 1998, ADD
STUDIO MATOUŠ MK 0049-2 011 [75.14]


The catalogue of compositions by Vítĕslava Kaprálová is slender and too easily overlooked. For this reason this 1998 CD from the thoughtful and audacious Studio Matouš company is musically significant. If its only virtue was significance we could safely note its existence and pass on through a highway already thronged with CDs clamouring for attention but it offers more than that.

The single movement Sinfonietta has none of the caustic quality of Weill, nothing of neo-classicism. The main theme has a surging Hungarian edginess recalling Rózsa. It flies forward on wings of Olympian exuberance perhaps a little like Roussel or late Ibert but with lightening romantic voices from Dvořák and others such as Holst, Butterworth and Vaughan Williams, surely unknown to her. It is a work in which clarity of instrumentation is the goal and the achievement. The themes are yielding and nostalgic in much the same way as Martinů's works of the 1940s. There are also fastidiously impressionistic interludes like that at 9.57 where solo instruments chime in delicate echo of Ravel's orchestral intimacies. The themes are said to be military in nature but allowing for some tensile writing for brass at 13.34 belligerence is not a quality I link with this work; rather is this a work of Mediterranean magnificence.

The vibrant String Quartet sounds a little more neo-classical in its first movement contrasting with its successor’s saturated romantic nostalgia. It is given a superbly lively performance and recording with some momentary harmonic spice. Once again a delicate but full-blooded spell is woven in the finale (which would make a good sampling point. tr.4). Kaprálová stands in the strong string quartet tradition of Dvořák and Suk. I commend the work to those still thirsty for more after hearing those classic works as well as the Janáček.

The four April Preludes are played by Smýkal. The recording is not of the best. While clear as a bell the piano sounds rather like a celesta at times. This is deeply affecting music commanding a vein of fantasy standing a little between Bax and Ravel with a dash of John Ireland along the way … if that is not too outlandish an image. In the tender Ritornell there is a strong flavour of Martinů in the long yearning lines for the cello and 'pecked' figuration for the piano.

Kaprálová studied with Talich and Chalabala (conducting) as well as with Novák (composition). In October 1937 she went to Paris to study with Boulanger and Munch. There she also worked with Martinů and had a love affair with him of which the Love Carol is a memento. The straight-talking Canteloube or even Czesław Marek are recalled in the Martinů setting of the carol. This contrasts with the idyllic melisma and richly furnished emotions of Kaprálová's approach. The two composers worked together on a trio for wind instruments and then on the work that became Martinů's Tre Ricercari. This in turn inspired Kaprálová to write the Partita for string orchestra and piano. Martinů had a decisive hand in the shaping and writing of this work especially in the finale. The work's central idyll is encased by two busy neo-classical pieces. The string orchestra here is not as silken-toned as it might have been and although clarity of orchestration remains the hallmark this is not a work of the stature of the Sinfonietta. It will appeal to those who respond to the de Falla Harpsichord Concerto, the light Dyson concertos (Leggiero, Chiesa, Camera) and to Martinů's Parisian works of the 1930s. Kaprálová died young - a victim of illness in the South of France not of the hostilities.

It says much for Kaprálová's standing and the strength of her music that Vilém Přibyl should have recorded Waving Farewell her song with orchestra. This stands in the great tradition of romantic scenas. Its contours are roundedly romantic and it is the most nationalistic of the works here but headily steered by Ravel's Daphnis and Szymanowski's Song of the Night. It is a superbly triumphant piece which would grace any singer's repertoire.

The notes in both Czech and English generously complement the music. Discoveries aplenty here of which the quartet, Sinfonietta, Love Carol, April Preludes and Ritornell are outstanding. Well worth the quest you will need to make if you want to find this treasurable CD.

Rob Barnett


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