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Risonanza - Modern Czech Music for Oboe, Harp and Piano
Jan HANUš (1915-2004)
Trio concertante Op.59b for oboe, harp and piano (1978) [23:34]
Sonata quasi una fantasia Op.61 for oboe and piano (1968) [12:22]
Petr EBEN (1929-2007)
Risonanza for harp solo (1986) [6:40]
Ordo modalis for oboe and harp (1964) [13:07]
Pavel HAAS (1899-1944)
Suite for oboe and piano (1939) [14;26]
Kateřina Englichová (harp)
Vilém Veverka (oboe)
Ivo Kahánek (piano)
rec. January 2009, Bohemia Music Studio, Prague
SUPRAPHON SU 3993-2 [70:42]
Experience Classicsonline

Supraphon doesn't usually go in for glossy covers and tableaux of seduction and erotic longeur - or whatever is going on on the cover of this one - but it does make a change. Though I ought to add that I'm not quite sure what it has to do with the disc's contents.  The lover, the loved, the betrayed? Is the betrayed a facilitator in his own betrayal? Is this sexual masochism? Why did I start this?

Back to the music. The three protagonists are oboe, harp and piano and combinations thereof. Jan Hanuš wrote his Trio Concertante for oboe, harp and piano in 1978. The first impression is one of a Messiaen influence but after the gauzy, almost impressionist start, and some diverting brief tango allusions, we are introduced to Martinů-influenced rhythmic charge. The piano is especially potent in its romantic allure. The fast central movement is lighter in tone and content with a pawky march and a contrasting reflective B section. This enthuses the harp, which begins the finale in determined fashion whilst the piano reaches for Revue de Cuisine pep, before the oboe and piano battle for supremacy, the harp remaining aloof but having the last word. The conversational piece is intriguing, traditional in outlook and sonority but marshalled with great skill and flair.  Hanuš’s Sonata quasi una fantasia is for oboe and piano and written a decade earlier than the companion work, the dangerous year of 1968. After the opening's long lines a stalking tune emerges here - increasing in confidence, but also stern. That theme emerges in the Allegro second movement now transformed into an insouciant, almost Parisian ease.

The death of Petr Eben in 2007 robbed Czech music of one of its most revered elder statesmen. How good it is to find two of his fluent works here. Risonanaza, which gives the disc its 'title', is for solo harp, written in 1986. Textures, colours and effects are clear and move from the wispy and feathery to more overt. The original theme Eben uses is a Mozartian one - the Minuet from Don Giovanni - and it's used as a kind of dialogue of exchange very adeptly, and sometimes whimsically. Ordo modalis dates from 1964 and was written for oboe and harp. The inspiration here is Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis. The moods vary strongly, from aloof characterisation, through more guttural writing, taking in bardic moments, and plaintive lines from the oboe. The stark gathering of loss is crystallised in the Sarabande - the movements sport baroque titles.  Similarly the hunting motifs in the finale, the horn evocations in particular are striking. Finally there is a necessarily much earlier work, Pavel Haas's Suite for oboe and piano of 1939. Like so many defiant Czech compositions it quotes the old Hussite hymn Ye Who Are Warriors of God as well as the Saint Wenceslas chorale. Powerful and brusque, it's a work of rhythmic variety as well, that reaches its apotheosis in its finale. Here the lyric oboe brings a long-hoped-for reflection and lyricism, the work ending in a flowing, nourishing optimism.

The performances and recordings are outstanding: three of the country's brightest young musicians in pure accord.

Jonathan Woolf



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