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Vítěslava KAPRÁLOVÁ (1915-1940)
Chamber Music

April Preludes (4) op. 13 (1937) [8:42]
Legend for violin and piano op. 3a (1932) [6:45]
Burlesque for violin and piano op. 3b (1932) [4:10]
Five Compositions for piano op. 1 (1931-2) [8:10]
Elegy for violin and piano (1939) [3:50]
Sonata Appassionata for solo piano op. 6 (1933) [16:55]
Variations sur le Carillon de l'Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont op.16 (1938) [12:35]
Little Song for solo  piano (1936) [1:18]
Virginia Eskin (piano); Stephanie Chase (violin)
rec. July 2007, Performing Arts Center, Purchase, NewYork, Theater C. DDD


Experience Classicsonline

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 Military 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: the Studio Matous Portrait, song collection on Supraphon and String Quartet. 

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.

Rob Barnett




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