One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Vítěslava KAPRÁLOVÁ (1915-1940)

Two Songs Op. 4 (1932) Op. 4 [5.02]
Sparks from ashes Op. 5 (1932-33) [12.20]
January for voice, piano, flute, two violins and cello (1933) [4.25]
Apple from the Lap Op. 10 (1934-36) [8.53]
Forever Op. 12 (1936-37) [7.43]
Waving Farewell Op. 14 (1937) [6.07]
Carol (1937) [0.50]
Christmas Carol (1939) [1.13]
Seconds Op. 18 (1936-39) [13.16]
Sung into the distance Op. 22 (1939) [6.48]
Letter (1940) [2.28]
Dana Burešová (sop)
Timothy Cheek (piano)
Magda Časlavová (flute)

Petr Zdvihal (violin)
Jan Valta (violin)
David Havelík (cello)
rec. 13-20 July 2003, Domovina Studio, Prague. DDD
SUPRAPHON SU3752-2 231 [70.13]

Further Information on Kaprálová:

This disc must contain some of the most purely beautiful music I have heard in a long while. Vitĕslava Kaprálová had a cruelly short life (she died age 25 of tuberculosis) and one is left wondering just what she might have achieved if she had been granted a longer stay. All credit to Supraphon for furnishing us with a beautifully-produced disc of some sensuous gems. This includes an interesting essay by the pianist here (Timothy Cheek) and full texts and multi-lingual translations.

Cheek suggests that Kaprálová’s songs can stand alongside those by Wolf and Debussy and that they achieve ‘a true marriage of music and words’. Certainly Kaprálová shows great sensitivity when it comes to choice of poets, for the very poems themselves are of the highest beauty. It takes a major talent to do poetry that already stands so strongly on its own justice, and that is exactly what Kaprálová achieves.

Pupil of Vítĕslav Novák, Zdenĕk Chalabala, Václav Talich, Charles Munch, Bohuslav Martinů and Nadia Boulanger (quite a roster!), Kaprálová’s music remains individual, despite the occasional nod in the direction of Janáček (heard in some of the piano writing).

The disc presents the songs chronologically, over a mere eight-year span. Right from the first song, ‘Morning’, one is gripped. The melodic line refuses to act as one might expect it to, while being fully sensitised to words and accentuation. The piano part is lovely, free and almost improvised; the autumnal harmonies of the second song, ‘Orphaned’ reflect the beauty of the poem (by R. Bojko). Dana Burešová’s pristine-sounding voice comes across as a breath of fresh air (although taken as a whole it can become a little tiring to listen to).

The set of four songs under the title Sparks from Ashes (on texts by Bohdan Jelínek) seem to breathe a particularly Czech nostalgia. So the first, an evening song, finds Cheek in particular conjuring up a crepuscular atmosphere. The words of the third song, ‘Oh stay yet, my dear girl’, are positively heart-rending; more melancholy informs the final song of the set also. If Burešová can on occasion seems somewhat shrill in tone, she nevertheless brings out the inherent sadness effectively.

There seems too little gap on the disc between the Op. 5 songs and ‘January’ (‘Leden’), a miraculous song for voice, piano, flute, two violins and cello. This, surely, is the highlight of the disc, the delicate scoring, the inconclusive ending and an overall hypnotic element all combining to mesmeric effect. The poem (by Vítězslav Nezval) is a masterpiece in itself – this is surely a realisation of the text sent from Heaven.

It is astonishing to think that Opp. 10 and 12 are the works of a woman still in her early twenties, so assured is the writing. An apple from the lap, Op. 10, centres on impending doom. The pliant, Nature-ridden first song gives way to a tender and intimate lullaby. The final song is the most extrovert of the set and finds Kaprálová using spicy harmonies to illustrate the ‘Spring Fair’.

Timothy Cheek evidently sees Kaprálová’s Op. 12 as a masterpiece. Certainly this set of three songs under the title, Forever, is extremely beautiful; the bare, spare textures of the second, ‘What is my grief’, appealed in particular to this reviewer. But perhaps Op. 14 (‘Waving farewell’) is more of a masterpiece. Hyper-Romantic in its sometimes extrovert piano writing and soaring vocal lines, its fairly extended duration (six minutes) means Kaprálová is able to flex her compositional muscles. Again, Burešová can tend towards the shrill at climaxes, but to compensate she can be unbearably touching within piano.

The witty ‘Koleda’ (Carol) on a folk text is the wittiest piece of the collection, complete with animal impressions and a cheeky, chirpy accompaniment. It is logically paired with a Christmas Carol, where I for one would have difficulty sleeping through the shrill second verse!

Seconds, Op. 18, has a Bartókian simplicity to it and includes a ‘Posthumous Variation’, a piano interlude based on the folksong, ‘Tatíčku starý nás’ (‘Our old daddy’), Janáček-like in the insistence of its inner parts. The final song (‘New Year’s’) is interesting in its use of almost ecstatic harmonies.

If Janáček is a fairly frequent visitor to these works, it is Stravinsky that turns up in the final song of Sung into the Distance, Op. 22, where the piano part turns jagged.

The final offering of this recital is the predominantly resigned, ‘Dopis’ (‘Letter) of 1940, a song written five days after her wedding. The music lights up at the words ‘Pan Bůh’ (‘Lord God’).

The music of Vítĕzslava Kaprálová is well worth investigating and this is as good a place as any to start. The whole enterprise exudes professionalism and dedication.

Colin Clarke



see also review by Rob Barnett

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

November 2022
Bach Orchestral Suites

del Cinque
Del Cinque Cello sonatas

Fujita Mozart
Mao Fujita Mozart

Stanczyk Acousmatic Music


October 2022

Berg Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto Elmes

DEbussy Jeux
Debussy Jeux

Romantic pioano masters
Romantic Piano Masters

The future is female - Vol 2
Volume 2 - The Dance

impromptu harp music
Complete Harp Impromptus


Return toReturn to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.