These two young Czech musicians are now well established recording artists and I’ve reviewed a number of their discs. This one has a very much lighter touch than the others and is being promoted by Supraphon in an appropriately evocative fashion with some luscious, indeed provocative colour photographs. The cover one is quite demure but the one on page ten will appeal to those attracted to Czech cheekbones. I ought to note that Supraphon has also done something I’ve never seen yet in any of its releases, which is to include an advertisement from the Czech Philharmonic to rent out the Rudolfinum for conferences, banquets and even — gasp — for music. Times are tough, and a prestige venue should bring in much needed crowns.
The music is largely for viola and harp in arrangements and editions by various musicians. Four are by the two soloists themselves. The programme proves a canny mix of genres, nationalities and historical time periods. Their French selection is especially beguiling; a fine tempo for Fauré, in their own edition, which is neither too fast nor too languishing, neither too emotive nor too cool. Ravel’s Vocalise etude
was also arranged by them, and it’s well chosen to promote the upper viola register as much as the Pavane pour une infante défunte
, arranged by the distinguished violist Vadim Borisovsky, allows Hosprová to reveal her rich cantilena, heightened by one or two distinctly expressive finger position changes. Debussy is represented by three pieces, all evocatively projected by the duo. The first two are arranged by Milton Katims, and very adeptly, whilst it’s Borisovsky’s arrangement of La fille aux cheveux de lin
to which they turn.
The duo also arranged the Marin Marais dances, lively and eventful pieces full of drone effects and nauticalia. The Kreisler brace was arranged by Alan H. Arnold, whilst the Sicilienne
long ascribed to the demure Maria Theresia von Paradis has, I think, long since been shown to be a Kreisleresque confection served up by violinist Samuel Dushkin.
Vieuxtemps’ piece honouring Paganini, for viola solo, brings out melancholic tints as well as Bachian intensity and is played with considerable panache. Carlos Salzédo’s Chanson dans la nuit
is an original work for solo harp, and the piece that gifts its name to the disc title. It’s beautifully played — a fusion of dappled reflection and glittering panache. Englichová also plays Marcel Grandjany’s arrangement of Bach’s Sarabande
from the B minor Partita.
There are two pieces, finally, that are especially worthy of note. Zdenek Lukaš was an important figure in recent Czech music and his Hosprenglico
, wittily encoding their names, was written for the duo. It’s full of warmth and affection with a feistier outer section full of characteristic folkloric colour ands rhythm. Finally there is Gideon Klein’s sweet envoi, Lullaby
So, this is a nuanced and wide-ranging disc that proves a feast for those wanting relaxed colour centring on the French muse.