for £12 postage paid World-wide.
Andrea Kalivodová: The Paths of Love
Songs on One Page, H294 [7:05]
Song on Two Pages, H302 No 1 [1:15]
Moravian Folk Poetry in Song, seven excerpts [9:31]
Jan KUNC (1883-1976)
Kacenka Stood on the Danube’s Shore, Op 14 [10:01]
Gypsy Melodies, Op 55 (sung in Slovak) [13:06]
Petr EBEN (1929-2007)
The Most Secret Songs, for low voice and piano [13:46]
Orphan Child, Op 8 [11:01]
Andrea Kalivodová (mezzo); Ladislava Vondrácková (piano)
rec. live, 3 June 2011, Gustav Mahler Hotel, Jihlava, Czech Republic
ARCODIVA UP 0135-2 131 [65:43]
Martinu, Janácek, Dvorák and the less familiar names of Jan
Kunc, Otakar Ostrcil, and Petr Eben: this is a treasury of Czech,
Slovak, and Moravian songs. The title’s no joke, either: these
may not all be love songs - the lyrics to Ostrcil’s Orphan
Child are particularly depressing - but they are
all intimate songs: confidences, so to speak.
Martinu’s extremely short selections – songs literally written
to appear on one page or two – are all gems, with even the most
abrupt-seeming ending feeling satisfactory: ‘ah, of course’.
The Song on Two Pages selected from a larger collection
for this album was chosen with care: the disc was recorded live
at a concert in the Moravian town of Jihlava, and the song’s
lyrics praise “the country around Jihlava” because “Every Moravian
girl carries herself like a candlestick, likes boys, and has
an open heart.” These lead into similarly short and sweet songs
by Janácek, who’s more prone to racy piano accompaniments and
whose distinctive voice wafts through on more than one occasion.
As much as these delight and romance, they can hardly prepare
you for Jan Kunc’s powerful ballad Kacenka Stood on the
Danube’s Shore, which lavishes ten dramatic minutes on
the unlikely subject of a woman who throws her newborn child
into the Danube and is hanged for the crime, wishing for one
last look at the man who impregnated her. The climax is potent
and the ending suitably grim; here one notices, not for the
first time, mezzo Andrea Kalivodová’s gift for acting the emotions
in the music.
We then get Dvorák’s beloved set of Gypsy Songs, Op 55,
including the legendary ‘Songs my Grandmother Taught Me’. This
is followed by a set of Most Secret Songs by Petr Eben,
the most recent work here since it dates from 1952. Written
for the composer’s fiancée, they’re all love songs with touching
lyrics - one by Eben himself, but most from Arabic poetry -
and they are yet another outstanding cycle. I’m especially fond
of No 4, ‘My Heart in the Morning Breeze’, with its haunting,
uncertain accompaniment, and No 6, ‘Parting’, which is suitably
spartan in feel. Last up is the sad ballad of the Orphan
Child mentioned earlier, by Otakar Ostrcil. It’s marked
from the piano introduction by a sense of sorrow, suffused with
compassion for the subject and a Russian-like union of emotion
and melody. There is concluding applause.
A word about mezzo Andrea Kalivodová. Her voice might charitably
be described as an acquired taste: there’s a distinctive vibrato
which I occasionally found irritating, and she occasionally
screeches when singing loudly at high pitches. There are a couple
moments that made me flinch. But if you acquire the taste for
her tone, there are rewards, like the excellent sense of each
song’s emotional heart and her ability to convey those feelings
in tone, or the very conversational way in which she dispatches
some of the miniatures. Ladislava Vondrácková makes the most
out of the parts the composers give her - most of which are
crafted with unusual skill. The recital was recorded live, but
there are no technical slips, and no audience noise at all.
The only oddity in the acoustic is that Kalivodová was evidently
walking about the stage from left to right. The venue was, I’d
guess from its sound, quite small.
Magdalena Kožená recorded quite a lot of this music for two
DG albums recently (review,
Her voice sets much higher standards for warmth, fullness, and
pure beauty of tone; there’s also competition in the Petr Eben
cycle from an old Supraphon album with the composer himself
at the piano. This repertoire is well off the beaten path (of
love?), so if it intrigues you, I do strongly recommend finding
a sample clip or two and deciding if the voice will please you.
If it does, the interpretations and songs are gems.
I haven’t mentioned the cover.