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CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

Chants d’est – Songs from Slavic Lands
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Nunc dimittis - Vespers Op. 37 (1915) [3:48]
Ernö DOHNANYI (1877-1960)
Ruralia Hungarica Op. 32b (1924) [10:35]
Song in remembrance of Schubert (Jewish Traditional) [4:25]
Alexander TCHEREPNIN (1899-1977)
Tatar Dance Songs and dances Op. 84 (1953) [2:45]
Franck KRAWCZYK (b.1969)
Jeux d'enfants, after Janácek's Moravian Folksongs (2007) [16:22]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Alexander Nevsky - The field of the dead (1938) [4:56]
Bohuslav MARTINU (1890-1959)
Variations on a Slovak folksong Theme (1959) H378 [9:34]
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Rückert-Lieder - Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (1901-02)
Dance [2:18]
Sonia Wieder-Atherton (cello)
Sinfonia Varsovia/Christophe Mangou
rec. October 2007, Polskie Radio Studio Koncertowe im W. Lutoslawskiego, Warsaw
NAĎVE V5178 [61:00]


Experience Classicsonline

The rationale for this disc is marked out by the map in the booklet which cuts a swathe from Hamburg in the north to Ljubljana in the south, Kassel in the west and the furthermost boundary in the east represented by Kiev (or Odessa if you go further south). Songs from Slavic lands is itself subtitled, further qualified in poetic fashion as a ‘journey down a long-lost path’. Novelistically speaking this is all very Sandor Marai, very Gregor von Rezzori territory – at least in the central part of the swathe – but the disc itself isn’t laden down especially by nostalgia, regret or heavy brooding.
Rather it’s a discursive journey through the central-eastern portal of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire to points eastward, but in ways that are not predictable. Dohnányi is here, naturally, for all his cosmopolitanism. Tcherepnin is briefly represented. Mahler was Moravian born, and Bohemian Martinu evokes Slovakian uplands. There is an interesting meeting of minds between Moravian nationalist Janácek and contemporary composer Franck Krawczyk.
Let’s start with the deep toll of the arrangement from Rachmaninoff’s Nunc dimittis from the Vespers. This presages the gypsy rubato of Ruralia Hungarica which receives a most attractively and warmly hued reading from Sonia Wieder-Atherton, whose cultivation of romantic reverie is never too elastic to deprive the line of strength. The second and final movement is excitingly accomplished. There are two traditional Jewish dances in the programme. What, when, and by whom were questions that struck me but probably they’re unanswerable, even the unusually titled song ‘in remembrance of Schubert’.
Tcherepnin is getting his due on disc these days but the very brief Tartar Dance won’t materially add to his opus coverage, buzzy and decisive though it is. Martinu’s Variations on a Slovak folksong – one of his last works – is a repertoire piece now. The orchestral garb presented here in this arrangement allows the harp usefully to imitate a cimbalon though variation two is much less effective than in the piano original. The scherzo (variation 4) works well though.
The Mahler arrangement is suitably plangent, if you go for this sort of thing, and the Prokofiev gloom laden, as it should be deriving from Alexander Nevsky. All of which leaves the intermingling of Krawczyk, who seems to be responsible for all the arrangements, and his meeting with some of Janácek’s Moravian folk songs. None is named, irritatingly. These range from the spare and quasi-elliptical (No.II) through the amusing wind chatter of No.III to the saucy No.V and a slowly soliloquizing No.VI.
The album idea was Wieder-Atherton’s ‘with the complicity’ (it’s better in French, I’m sure) of Krawczyk. It’s a somewhat theatrical idea – in the non-pejorative sense of the word - and works pretty well as a thematic concept.
Jonathan Woolf.


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