Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Symphony No. 3 F dur, op. 90 (1883) [35:17]
Jaroslav KRCEK (b. 1939) Symphony No. 5 Renaissance (1993?) [27:11]
Prague Symphony Orchestra (Symfonicky orchestr hl. m. Prahy FOK)/Jiri Kout
rec. 23-24 February 2010, Smetana Hall, Municipal House, Prague. DDD
FOK 002-2 031 [62:28]
I am not at all sure about the wisdom of this coupling. It appealed strongly tome because Krcek interests me and because Brahms’ Third is my favourite among the four and has been ever since hearing the Bruno Walter CBS version on audio-cassette in the 1970s.
The Brahms is smoothly and searchingly recorded with plenty of woodwind detail basking in the soundstage. The occasional awkwardnesses among the winds in the first movement dissipate in the later movements. There's also some idyllically peaceful and quiet playing from the strings in the ‘Hungarian Dance’ poco allegro third movement. This is sheer magic in the hands of Jiri Kout – who was last heard by me in a Martinu programme on Arte Nova - one of their last issues, I think. This is a fine Brhams interpretation which becomes exceptional in that third movement.
The smiling falling away at the close of the Brahms symphony is here emphasised and engrossingly dwelt upon by Kout. This prepares us, without a grinding gear-change, for the radiant blossoming of Krcek's Fifth. His Renaissance Symphony is the last of five. It is clearly of the tonal-melodic school which still allows plenty of room for variety and difference from other composers. Its opening Lento has much interplay of warm and slowly unfolding tendrils of melody from solo woodwind over a breathing undulation from the strings. It's almost French in its gentle and petalled ecstasy. The following Vivo has the intensity of the satyrs pursuit of nymphs through groves. There’s just a hint of Roussel in this. There are some striking effects including woodblocks ‘clacketing’ over chattering woodwind. The music then feels the magnetic draw of the first movement’s warmth. The third movement is a Lento. It’s nostalgic yet of the moment - the nymphs have curled up under the trees’ green shadows in the afternoon heat. The movement ends in a taut little dance and a flash of lickety-split defiance. There's a long finale in four episodes. The Vivo begins sternly and a trumpet ushers us into a fruity almost minimalist weave of woodwind writing. The Lento basks again in benign sunlight. The music rises to a grand folk festival finale -shades of Riverdance al la czechia. looking back if this symphony had beencalled Orpheus I wdnot have been surprised. Not a discord or grating moment.
There is a good English and Czech liner-note.
Surprisingly consonant partners. If you like the Brahms you will likely enjoy the melodic Krcek after a couple of hearings.
Rob Barnett
Surprising consonant partners ... see Full Review