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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Jindřich FELD (b.1925)
Sonata for flute and string orchestra (1957 for flute and piano; arranged for flute and orchestra 1965) [19:47]
Musique concertante for flute, viola, harp and strings (2005) [19:57]
Zdeněk LUKÁŠ (b.1928)
Music for Harp and Strings [15:58]
Viktor KALABIS (1923-2006)
Tristium - Concert Phantasy for viola and strings (1981) [12:11]
Carlo Jans (flute)
Jitka Hosprová (viola)
Kateřina Englichová (harp)
Prague Chamber Orchestra/Antonín Hradil

rec. Domovina Studios, Prague, September 2006
ARCO DIVA UP 0097 - 2 131 [68:20]



Though the booklet speaks of "concertos" this is more strictly a concertante disc, best exemplified by Feld’s 2005 Musique concertante. The performances were recorded in September 2006 and bring us the work of three senior Czech composers, though Kalabis alas died toward the end of that month; his Tristium, itself a lament for a departed friend, takes on added significance in this context.

Feld’s Musique concertante arose through a friendship between the composer and the Luxembourg Ambassador to Prague – hence the Luxembourg crest on the booklet cover. This is not simply its first recording it’s the first performance as well – the first public performance is planned for the Rudolfinum in March 2007. It’s written for the well-established and excellent trio of flautist Carlo Jans, violist Jitka Hosprová and harpist Kateřina Englichová. Cast in three traditional movements this is a propulsive and textually aerated work, with finely distributed writing for the three players and finely balanced against the string orchestra. Feld moves from mild abrasion to Martinů-like moments. The slow movement is perhaps the most intriguing. The eerie and lulling sonorities – like a nocturnal phantasmagoria – are replete with little running patterns. They lead on to a quotation from Machaut (his name unfortunately misspelled in the booklet) - his Ma chiere dame, a vous mon cuer envoy, though the annotators prefer the modern French spelling "coeur" to the correct "cuer". Its appearance at 2:38 is not entirely dissimilar to Britten’s use of Dowland in Lachrymae, though it appears here stated in full and is then subject to some working out before the orchestra returns to its balm. The finale is a percussive dance with plenty of excitement and virtuosity.

The other Feld piece is the Sonata for flute and string orchestra – originally written for flute and piano in 1957 but heard here in the 1965 expansion. Here the influences are broadly Franco-Prokofiev. There’s the witty detachment of the former and the rather unsettled lyricism of the latter and both are held together in fine balance. The geniality of the opening is matched by an unsettled slow movement – a compelling structure, and played with real understanding by the duo. The finale is a playful release with touches perhaps of Poulenc along the way.

Lukáš’s Music for Harp and Strings is undated though certainly written before 1984, the year quoted for an archival radio performance. As ever Lukáš proves a master of folkloric integration and heartfelt lyricism. Rather than give his three movements conventional names he prefers the bald time signatures. The work sounds at times like an extemporised harp solo in a Dvořák opera, albeit one tinged with modern harmonies. It has a resonant ballad beauty that proved utterly impossible for this reviewer to resist. The finale is a gorgeous thing, its motoric moments sounding briefly but disconcertingly, and I’m sure entirely coincidentally, like a Bohemian John Adams.

Kalabis was Lukáš’s teacher so it’s fitting that we have Tristium, his twelve-minute tribute strongly modelled on Hindemith’s Trauermusik. It owes its genesis to the illness and death of a friend and alternatives tempi and emotive conditions strongly mirroring the feelings of hope and resignation – despair and faith as the composer notes them – experienced by the patient, Dr.Z.F. This gripping and melancholy work was first performed by Lubomír Malý with the Slovak Chamber Orchestra conducted by Bohdan Warchal in 1986. Kalabis died after the booklet was printed, fittingly perhaps on the Feast Day of St. Wenceslas. We salute the memory of a brave, steadfast and noble man.

The booklet picture shows three austere wind turbines slowly revolving in darkening skies. I can’t say I’m a great admirer of wind farms – they only work when the wind blows and look appalling – but if they’re somehow emblematically meant to represent these three Czech composers then don’t let that put you off. Austerity and bogus productivity are the last things one should expect of Feld, Kalabis and Lukáš – three composers of humanity, facility and depth.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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