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Fire Dance
Zdenek LUKÁŠ (1928-2007)
Per tutte le corde – Quintette for harp, two violins and cello Op.320 (2001) [8:28]
Jan Frank FISCHER (1921-2006)
Two Études for harp solo; Nos. I and II (1971) [5:41]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Romanian Folk Dances (pub. 1920) arranged for harp by Katerina Englichová [5:17]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Dances for chromatique harp with strings (1904) [9:42] ą:
Jan Hanuš TRNECEK (1858-1914)
Fantasy on Smetana’s Tone Poem Vltava [12:36]
David WATKINS (b.1936)
Fire Dance from Petite Suite [2:14]
Sylvie BODOROVÁ (b.1954)
Mysterioum druidum for harp and strings (2003) [14:33] ą
Katerina Englichová (harp)
Wihan Quartet ą
rec. 9 June 2009, live, Gustav Mahler Festival, Jihlava
ARCO DIVA UP 0116-2 131 [59:06]

Experience Classicsonline

As so often these days a live recording only announces itself at the very end, with applause. For the duration you simply wouldn’t otherwise know, so I suspect skilful editing has removed extraneous shuffling and spluttering. Not that there would have been much, given the June date, and the rarefied atmosphere of the performances which call for concentrated listening. A solo harp recital may promise vulnerability but actually the opposite is often true with opportunities for virtuosic runs, evocative colour and the added tapestries of collaborative partners – here, the Wihan Quartet.
The programme, as Katerina Englichová admits in her booklet note, caused her some concern given that she wanted to construct a concert that was personal to her. Two are very closely associated with her and all are part of her core repertory. Lukáš’s Per tutte le corde – Quintette for harp, two violins and cello, was actually written for her and she gave its premiere performance with the Kubín Quartet. It’s suffused with the composer’s folkloric affiliations, though this is never in danger of becoming too purely alluring. Lukáš ensures, as ever, that the percussive and the dappled are part of the aural landscape and this brief, two movement work has tremendously rapt expressive moments as well. There are some post-Martinu exultant and celebratory moments in the second movement where skittering excitement alternates with reflective contemplation.
Sylvie Bodorová wrote Mysterioum druidum for Englichová and the Chamber Music Festival in Tucson, Arizona. It’s for harp and strings, as with the Lukáš. The work is inspired by Celtic myth and bardology, and the three movement work celebrates them in sound. The first movement takes their trees as its central motif, and there’s fiercely evocative writing as well as one of her surging tunes – listen from around 3:40 (it’s tremendous). The second movement is called Vindobona, the name of a Celtic settlement in what is now Vienna. This sounds intriguingly like a very stripped-down Tallis Fantasia – there’s a baronial elegance as well to the writing before bardic soliloquies for the strings. This unleashes a hell-for-leather finale in which Fire Demons prevail; the daemonic dance is infused with folklore once more and full of vitality and drama.
Though written in 1971 Fischer’s Etudes are meat and drink to contemporary Czech and Slovak harpists. Englichová has selected the first two and they offer contrast; the first being lyric but full of contour and colour whilst the second is glittering. The harpist has arranged the Bartók Romanian Dances for harp, having taken the piano originals as her model. Many will know the violin and piano version best. This is a fine and imaginative translation which preserves, say, the rhythmic verve of the Allegro fifth movement to real advantage. The Debussy is established territory and the warm textures and impressionist flecks are finely realised by the harpist and her colleagues from the Wihan. The sense of rhythmic charge in the Danse profane is palpable, and equally so the exultation at the close. Fun and virtuosity fuse in Trnecek’s Fantasy on Smetana’s Tone Poem Vltava which does, as it were, what it says on the tin. Nevertheless it would be wrong to underestimate the nuance and supple verve of the performance, which does well to mitigate some of the more vaporously florid moments in such an undertaking as this. David Watkins’s Fire Dance is from his Petite Suite and has been recorded before. You can see why harpists like it. It’s a vibrant show-stopper.
The harpist herself and the resident Arco Diva maestro Jirí Štilec are joint music directors for this project and Václav Roubal is responsible for the excellent sound editing responsibilities. It’s good to know that such an artfully constructed programme has been musically realised with such skill and authority.
Jonathan Woolf


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