Kaprálová came from a cultivated and musically sympathetic family
in Brno. There she attended the Conservatory, studying composition
with Vilem Petrzelka and conducting with Zdenek Chalabala. From
those student years come Five Compositions, Legend
and Burlesque, and the Sonata Appassionata.
These works are not backward-looking even so.
The Legend is honeyed and hoarse
with lyricism. One might guess early-mid period Delius - especially
those rhapsodic floating lyric tendrils for the violin. The
Burlesque is an elegantly pointed May-Morning carefree
piece; nothing of the music-hall. One can also sense Szymanowski's
Arabian intoxicants in the richly allusive Elegy. The
Five Compositions include a plangent and darkly dissonant
Maestoso perhaps similar to later Frank Bridge or to
John Ireland's Ballade. The Cantabile moderato is
a liquid romance akin to the Legend. The Andante
proceeds subtly while the Tempo di menuetto is
again free of cares. The Tempo di marcia funebre with
its ‘strummed’ downbeat is dignified and optimistic. The writing
here recalls not only that of Ireland but Bax in his strenuously
thunderous moments in the second and third piano sonatas.
From these student years we also hear the confident and gestural
Sonata Appassionata which has much florid heroic writing
yet remains impressionistic. The spinning rivulets of sound
and the harmonic scheme repeatedly recall John Ireland – a
composer whose music it is unlikely she would have known.
The second and final movement is a shining set of six variations.
Of the mature works the four April
Preludes appear first on the disc. They were championed
by Rudolf Firkusny who was later to become such an advocate
of the piano music of Martinů. It is not just the title
but the style that again takes me to Kaprálová's English contemporaries:
John Ireland and Frank Bridge. The first prelude is mercurial,
touched with the dark threat explicit in Ireland's Ballade.
The second Prelude recalls Bridge's 1922 Piano Sonata while
the third is a most delicately drawn bloom with a melody of
Warlockian innocence. The last prelude has an unaccountable
Oriental accent as if Kaprálová had been influenced by Karol
Szymanowski. The Carillon Variations were published after
Martinů had persuaded Michel Dillard to support the work.
It is another subtle, perfumed and delicate work which is
fragile and fantastic yet resilient and, as in the case of
the final variation, stonily defiant in the manner of Rachmaninov.
After her studies in Brno she moved to
Prague where she attended master-classes by Novak and Talich
which surely stood her in good stead for writing her 1937
Sinfonietta dedicated to President Eduard Benes.
At the premiere conducted the Czech Philharmonic. Staying
in Paris she was drawn in particular to the music of Stravinsky
and paid tribute to Petrushka in her large orchestral
Suite Rustica (1938). Her last work was the elegy written
as an in memoriam to Karel Capek.
The notes are by Karla Hartl who keeps
the Kaprálová Society responsive and active and without whose
support this recording would not have happened.
There are a handful of Kaprálová recordings:
collection on Supraphon
Shame about the lacks of dates and timing
in the track listings. That said, the recording is strong and
the performances sensitive and completely committed as if Eskin
and Chase had known the music for many years. It's a measure of
Koch's values and judgement that the gaps between tracks are unusually
generous. It really pays off.