Eva Garajová - My Songs
Antonín DVORÁK (1841 – 1904)
Cigánské melodie (Gypsy Songs) Op. 55, B 104 [15:19]
1. Má pisen zas mi láskou zní (My song of love) [3:17]
2. Aj! Kterak trojhranec muj prerozkošne zvoní (Hey! Ring out, my triangle) [1:15]
3. A les je tichý kolem kol (All round about the woods are still) [3:17]
4. Když mne stará matka (Songs my mother taught me) [2:23]
5. Struna naladena (Tune thy strings) [1:13]
6. Široké rukávy (Wide the sleeves) [1:30]
7. Dejte klec jestrábu (Give a hawk a fine cage) [2:02]
Jaroslav KRICKA (1882 – 1969)
Severni noci (Northern Nights) Op. 14 [10:44]
8. Albatros (Albatross bird) [3:27]
9. Labut (Swan) [2:44]
10. Ukolébavka (Lullaby) [1:43]
11. U skandinavských skal (By the Scandinavian rocks) [2:40]
Bohuslav MARTINU (1890 – 1959)
Dve pisne (Two Songs) [7:40]
12. Kvet broskví (Fleur de pęcher) [4:19]
13. Chorý podzim (Automne malade) [3:17]
Béla BARTÓK (1881 – 1945)
Öt dal (Five Songs) Op. 16 [19:41]
14. Három öszi lárma (Autumn tears) [2:35]
15. Az öszi lárma (Autumn echoes) [3:28]
16. Az ágyam hívobal (Lost content) [5:03]
17. Egyedül a tengerrel (Alone with the sea) [4:42]
18. Nem mehelek hozzád (I cannot come to you) [3:36]
Falun. Dedinské scény (Village Scenes) [14:05]
19. Pri hrabani (Haymaking) [1:33]
20. Pri neveste (At the bride’s) [1:47]
21. Svatba (Wedding) [3:13]
22. Ukoliebavka (Lullaby) [4:59]
23. Tanec mládencov (Lad’s dance) [2:21]
Eva Garajová (mezzo), Marian Lapšanský (piano)
rec. Martinu Hall, Lichtenstein Palace, Prague, 1-2 May, 19-20 June 2010
Sung texts but no translations enclosed
ARCODIVA UP 0128-2 131 [67:59]
In his sleeve-notes Igor Javorský paraphrases the Bible saying that in music in the beginning was song. To all four composers represented on this disc song was important in one way or other. Dvorák’s way to international recognition started when Brahms heard his Moravian duets and decided to help him; Jaroslav Kricka, who studied with Novak and wasn’t too happy with him, went to Russia for three years and there he met the music of Rimsky-Korsakov, which changed his path. Martinu found his ‘songs’ in Paris, where jazz was beginning to blossom as well as other modern things. Bartók, the only non-Czech on this disc, encountered his muse among the rural inhabitants of Hungary – but also in Slovakia, so there is a link here too.
The best known music here is no doubt Dvorák’s Gypsy Songs, of which No. 4, Songs my mother taught me, is known by most music-lovers in this part of the world. I believe. On a quiz programme on Swedish Television recently the orchestra played the barcarolle from Les contes d’Hoffmann, one of the participants even hummed along but none knew the composer and most of them looked like nesting boxes when they were told the correct answer. Times change. OK, I didn’t recognise Songs my mother taught me when I first bought an LP more than 45 years ago and the sleeve-notes said that it was famous. So I listened to it again – and it stuck.
That was a recording with Victoria de los Angeles. I won’t pretend that Eva Garajova’s reading is in that class. True, los Angeles by the mid-1960s could occasionally be unsteady but the basic approach was still the utmost loveliness. Garajova’s sensitive, beautiful mezzo-soprano, characterized by a quick flutter, that is rather attractive, tends to sound a bit aggressive when under pressure and the vibrato becomes wider. That also mars the following songs (trs. 5 and 6). She is much more to her advantage in the opening song of the cycle and, even more, in the third, where she is soft and inward. The final song (tr. 7) also goes well.
I suppose that Jaroslav Kricka is a fairly unfamiliar name to many readers. It certainly was to me. Looking him up on Wikipedia provided the interesting information that in 1936 he won a bronze medal in the art competitions of the Olympic Games for his “Mountain Suite”. Another source tells that he was also a conductor who championed contemporary composers. His oeuvre encompassed operas and operettas as well as folksong arrangements. Northern Nights from 1910 is, according to the liner-notes ‘one of the most successful results of his Russian sojourn’. He spent those years in Dnjepropetrovsk in Ukraine and swans certainly could be seen there. I’m unsure about albatrosses. My encyclopedia says that they can be found primarily in the Antarctic region. It is also surprising to find the last song From the Scandinavian Rocks – far from Ukraine. But maybe the poet, Konstantin Balmont was well travelled. It’s a pity there are no translations of the poems. Without knowing what the texts are about one misses half the experience of the song. The whole cycle is however deeply fascinating, Albatross is as dramatic as the sight of these enormous birds must be in real life and the encounter with the Scandinavian Rocks is intense. This cycle is a valuable addition to the song repertoire and I will certainly return to it.
Martinu is far better known but not primarily as a composer of songs. His symphonies and string quartets are not uncommon guests in concert halls but Martinu’s songs should be explored. Some years ago Magdalena Kozena included some very attractive songs by him on a DG recital, and these two delicate peach flowers are fine mementos of his Paris years.
Bartók’s genuine interest in folkmusic had him travel around not only in Hungary but adjacent regions as well and in 1913 he even visited Algeria. Influences from his collecting can be found in most of his compositions to a greater or lesser degree and the songs on this disc are rhythmically and harmonically very fascinating. Garajova sings them with both power and sensibility, though her vibrato can sometimes be irritating. The cycle Village Scenes is arguable the greatest of them and especially Svatba (Wedding) (tr. 21) and the concluding Tanec mládencov (Lads’ dance) (tr. 23) are highlights.
The accompaniments are excellent and the recorded sound is fully worthy of the occasion. Even though there are some blemishes in the singing it is good to have these songs sung as authentically as here and I must stress the fascination the Kricka cycle provided.
It is good to have these songs sung as authentically as here.