After the wonderful
disc of music by Kaprálová
, it is a pleasure to report further
riches. This time the issuing company
is Matous, another Czech label (www.matous.cz
). The presence of some orchestral and
concertante music is welcome on a disc
that also includes one of her major
compositional statements, the excellent
String Quartet of 1935.
the single movement ‘Military Sinfonietta’,
so-called because of the nature of its
themes. If Janáček is present in
the background of the very opening,
he is soon dispelled. This is eminently
jolly music, written by a firm compositional
hand that guides a fertile imagination.
Particularly notable is the transparency
of the orchestration (superbly realised
here by the Czech Symphony Orchestra).
The String Quartet
is, if anything, an even finer piece;
in my estimation the best work on the
disc. It was inspired by feelings of
elation on graduating from her Conservatoire.
The very first entry sounds as if it
is slightly shortened by an error of
editing, but that aside this is a fine
recording. The atmosphere here is more
intense than in the Military Sinfonietta,
achieving almost a Bergian sense of
flow (just missing that final feeling
of harmonic/motivic freedom so characteristic
of Berg). The Lento second movement
begins with a cello soliloquy before
an ultra-high violin enters. The sorrowful
lines are well presented, contrasting
with the tripping-along nature of the
‘Vivo’ finale. Contrast is marked here,
as in the interior passage around 3’30
and the spiky, more obviously modern
passage slightly later on.
preludia (‘April Preludes’) for
solo piano are, as the booklet note
promises, supremely pianistic. It is
the second that seems most filled with
hope of Spring, while for the third,
the indicator ‘semplice’ is the watchword.
The finale is the most spiky, almost
in the manner of a Czech Stravinsky.
Jaroslav Smýkal plays with laudable
textural clarity. Only the recording
is really open to adverse criticism
here, on the dry side and lacking lower-range
studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger
and Charles Munch, and also became a
pupil of Martinů’s. Indeed Martinů
was a major influence in her life, so
it is appropriate that here we have
two settings of František Sušil’s poem,
‘Koleda milostná’ (‘Love Carol’). A
pity that text only is given by Matous,
but there is no missing the effectiveness
of Martinů’s assured and simple
response. Lenka Škorničková sings
beautifully. Her voice is pure (very
little vibrato) and fresh-sounding.
Kaprálová’s response to
Sušil’s text is spikier and certainly
cello and piano was Kaprálová’s
last completed composition. A dry acoustic
again does not help matters, but there
is no doubting the work’s appeal and
no doubting either the technical competence
of cellist Ivan Mĕrka.
Neo-classic is the
term that springs straight to mind when
confronted with the Partita,
Op. 20, for ‘string orchestra and piano’.
The piano is recorded closely, but mercifully
Jiří Skovajsa does not bang.
In fact, he has a most appealing staccato.
There is a feeling of Bartók
about much of the first movement. The
hypnotic Andantino is marvellously expressive,
contrasting with the acidic harmonies
of the witty concluding Presto.
the disc – a more fitting title would
be hard to find. This is a 1937 setting
for voice and orchestra of a poem by
Vitĕzslav Nezval. The tenor soloist,
Vilém Přibyl, is unconvincing though.
He seems unsure of where the line is
going and his voice is forced.
The work itself is effective, but some
slight reshuffling of tracks would have
ensured a more lasting impression for
this disc. Nevertheless, this is an
essential supplement to the Supraphon
disc mentioned above. Do try to search
These are mostly Czech
Radio recordings, from Brno. There is
a countryman’s dedication that shines
through all the performances.
see also review
by Rob Barnett