This extensive series has now reached volume 7 (see review
of Vols 1-3) and will test the mettle of even the most fanatical lovers of music in the Czech lands. There is barely a name to cling to in the blizzard of diacriticals, and the like. Obscurity need not breed indifference - indeed it should be a spur to enthusiasm, in my book - and the programme has been thoughtfully compiled around the idea of Christmas and the winter season, so that a proper focus is given to what might otherwise be somewhat disparate.
A putative line in the sand for this disc is the year 1770, the zenith of Classicism. That said, some of the composers who lived on well into the nineteenth century or who were too young to have composed much by 1770 - such as Kuchař, in both cases - don’t quite fit the bill. Others, such as Stamíc were dead by 1770, so one should use the date only as an approximate one.
Kuchař is represented by a charming organ solo on Christmas themes, genial and folk-like. Stamíc, an important figure in the propagation of orchestral music across Europe, and an exponent of the Mannheim School, is represented by his Sinfonia Pastorale
which is receiving its CD première. It’s a buoyant piece of work, elegantly contoured with nice string ‘swells’ from the modern instrument Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra. Note the Mannheim Crescendo in the finale, and the well-balanced sectional discipline to be heard. Jan Hataš, a schoolmaster, contributes some Christmas wind music, wittily encapsulating a stylised Polonaise. The multiply-named František Antonín (Antonio Rosetti) Rössler was a priest who discovered the joys of Moravian folk music and his Sinfonia is a no-nonsense affair, full of hunting horn motifs - splendid horn playing by the way - which enjoys the echo potential to the full. It’s a strange kind of Classical-Folklore hybrid but well worth hearing.
On no account miss the delicious dudy (bagpipes) in the sole piece by Weissmann, the man with no forename. Well, clearly he did have a Christian name but it seems to be lost in the mists of time. His Pastorella in F
- for bagpipe, two oboes and strings - makes an evocative sound. Linek’s Sinfonia is catchy, quite extended and a worthy addition to the repertoire. It has never been on CD, though it has been recorded before. His Pastorela
for harpsichord features the instrument in a full concerto role, and it’s played here by Stanislav Vavřínek, who conducts the final piece in the programme, the Christmassy but highly incongruous Nouveau Livre de Noëls
by Frenchman Michel Corrette. There’s no note as to the logic of including this, presumably because there isn’t any. In any case it’s a charming collection of pieces and I’m happy to hear it, even if it’s nothing to do with Bohemia. ‘Beyond’, possibly, but I’m not sure I would have thought of France in this particular context.
Interpretatively this is up to the high standards set already in this series. If you care to cast your net wide you’ll enjoy some of the less glamorous but highly individual composers to be heard in this attractively priced and annotated disc.