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Czech Contemporary Music
Jaroslav KRCEK (b.1939)
Music for Trio [7:55]
Renaissance Trio [7:15]
Hail, Thou Graceful Music (Zdráva Bud', Muziko Spanilá) [9:49]
Jirí GEMROT (b.1957)
Moments for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon [12:53]
Ilja HURNÍK (b.1922)
Trio for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon [10:17]
Tomáš SVOBODA (b.1939)
Toccata for Woodwind Trio [1:35]
Novák Trio (Gabriela Krcková (oboe); Štepán Koutník (clarinet); Vladimír Lejcko (bassoon))
rec. Studio Domovina, Prague, December 2011 (Krcek, Svoboda); Czech Radio, Prague, April 1992 (Gemrot, Hurník). DDD
ARCODIVA UP 0032-2231 [51:00]

For whatever reasons, wind trios have never been as fashionable as their piano or string cognates, but for those who have discovered the pleasures to be derived from the unique sonorities, this disc should appeal greatly. Though the four composers are relatively unknown outside the Czech Republic - albeit the odd work of Ilja Hurník's does pop up on recordings here and there - this is sophisticated music that is also really rather tuneful, with little ground yielded to modernism and none at all to vanguardism.
In this short but invigorating recital by the hugely experienced Novák Trio - 2014 will mark an incredible thirty years with the same line-up - Jaroslav Krcek, for reasons not made clear in the notes, gets the lion's share of the spotlight. He is well worth hearing though, as indeed are Gemrot and Hurník: their music is unfailingly elegant, witty and colourful. Krcek's klezmer-influenced Hail, Thou Graceful Music is especially memorable. Some of his other music is available on earlier ArcoDiva releases, notably his Czech-language Oratorio (UP 0144-2131) and the Fifth Symphony (FOK 0002-2031, with Brahms' Third).
All the works on the present recording are linked not only by their 'Czech contemporariness', but by their dedication to the Novák Trio. Curiously, the Trio are rather lackadaisical towards the prestissimo possible marking of Svoboda's cursory Toccata, opting instead for a more leisurely pace - a fleeting piece by nature, but less fleeting than the composer might have had in mind.
Sound and general technical quality are very good. As the given dates make clear, this is actually two recordings nearly twenty years apart fused into one - seamlessly. The Czech-English booklet notes by Trio oboist Gabriela Krcková are well written and well translated. The running time leaves something to be desired, but the disc comes with a low-end mid-price ticket by way of compensation.
From a financial point of view, 'Czech Contemporary Music' does not seem the wisest of titles for ArcoDiva to give any new release - something a little less 'minatory'-sounding might have led to wider sales. A pizzazzier cover design would surely have helped a bit too.

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