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Rudolf KUBÍN (1909-1973)
String Quartet No. 1 (1927) [15.07]
Humoresques for violin, viola, cello and clarinet (1961) [16.47]
Concertino for double bass and octet [7.28]
Kubín Quartet
Valter Vítek (cl); Kětoslav Borovička (double bass)
Akademia Quintet
rec. DDD
ARCO DIVA UP 0051-2 131 [39.34]


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I have been enjoying listening to four Arco Diva releases recently. This is not the first time we have carried reviews of discs from that label. Two years ago when Dr Jenner was writing for us he tackled several CDs of the music of Sylvie Bodorová. More recently I returned to their website because I had heard that they had recorded Ronald Stevenson's String Quartet. The Kubín was part of the parcel of other discs accompanying the Stevenson.

Kubín was born in the anthracite-production town of Ostrava. After the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 it became, through its steel industry, even more important as an economic and cultural centre. Musical life was vigorous with chamber music concerts each devoted to a single composer including Novák, Fibich, and Dvořák. There was an eight concert season devoted entirely to Foerster. Kubín studied with Haba and in his teens wrote several quarter tone compositions. He joined the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra as a cellist. In 1935 he returned to Ostrava and there joined Erwin Schulhoff at the radio station. He became a major player in the musical life of Ostrava.

Jiři Štilec's Arco Diva label is predominantly chamber focused and so it proves with this disc. It is helpful to compare the spread of styles across the recent Arco Diva discs. Kubín's music is the toughest in this range. Mácha is quite traditional by comparison while Bodorová, much younger, also He was a pupil of Alois Haba though he is not quite the absolutist you might have feared or hoped for. His First Quartet is closer to Bartók than to Schoenberg but the 12-tone element is certainly evident. His music, ripe with interest, adopts folklike material and mannerisms so it is never completely alien.

Thirty-four years later comes the Humoresques. As the useful notes observe this five movement character suite (On the Train, Evening Bells, Kinematofone, Modern Love, The Clown) is substantially a set of concerto-panels for clarinet with an orchestra of violin, viola and cello. The years here softened Kubín's idiom into a yielding and pliable song with busy surreptitious writing for the clarinet as well as typically rounded woody lyricism. Voices in the Kubín blend include Ravel, Hindemith and de Falla with a merest shade of Weill's scathing satire. The pieces would go well alongside Arthur Bliss's Five Conversations and Finzi's Bagatelles.

The date of the Concertino is not given but it sounds as if it lies between the quartet and the Humoresques. There is here more Weill in the mix. It is in six movements with the double bass taken a prominent role often pouring dour water on the exuberance and cheek of the octet.

Rob Barnett

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