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Balady a legendy (Ballads and Legends)
Soloists: Eva Marková, Lubomír Vraspí, Hana Chlomková, Vlasta Grycová, Jarmila Miháliková, Jožka Černý, Jaroslav Krček
Recitation: Klára Jerneková, Alfréd Strejček
Jan Pospíchal (violin)
Musica Bohemica/Jaroslav Krček
rec. October-November 1978, Domovina studio, Prague and at the Cejkovice Community Centre, July 1986.
No texts
SUPRAPHON SU4191-2 [71:46]

Supraphon have embarked on a multi-disc programme restoring the LPs made by Musica Bohemica under their inspirational director Jaroslav Krček. My last encounters were the disc of Czech Folk Songs and the Songs and Dances of Bohemian Baroque (review), and this latest release should be seen in the context of those discs.

The title Ballads and Legends seems to fit together well but there are two discrete sessions here, made many years apart. The first six tracks come from the group’s first LP, recorded in 1978 and called Drevo se hudbou odiva (Wood Attired in Music). The rest of the programme was recorded in 1986 and it’s this LP that bore the title Ballads and Legends – both Bohemian and Moravian.

Krček was responsible for creating the compositions in the first LP, crafting them in the light of his historical knowledge of the repertoire. He also actually made some of the instruments. Most of the lyrics were taken from folk songs, to which Krček supplied the music, sometimes ensuring that the texts were spoken as well as sung – an appealing feature in Wandering Fiddlers, where he writes a long commentary for the melancholy solo violin and where the atmospheric trudging of the musicians is beautifully conveyed. The play of strong solo voice against ripe orchestral reply is a fairly common feature in this type of music and finds its best outlet here in the enticingly titled Make Ready, Maid, Make Ready. Once more the intrepid solo violinist, Jan Pospíchal holds centre stage in Frolicking Little Angel whilst Krček’s more filmic predilections can be savoured in Conjuring My Beloved, a dreamy piece with a quite dramatic recitative. A rustic dance with a more explicitly Renaissance B sections ends this first LP restoration.

The remainder celebrates ballads, once again with texts taken from folk sources but here with Krček merely arranging the music. There’s a delightful play of melancholy in a number of these settings – try The Knights They Crossed the River Stream - richly offset by moments of bardic eloquence, such as One Mother Her Daughter Married off. The Wedding Feast It Was So Long is an unusually spare setting with the vocal fugitively shadowed by the instruments. Those who recall Janáček’s own folk explorations in his Moravian songs will recall the Mosquito’s Wedding. Here we have a Gnat’s Wedding – gnat, mosquito, who’s counting? - and it gets a deliciously bubbly setting and performance.

Now for the crunch. Those who would like to explore this repertoire further will be disappointed to note that no texts or translations are included. So, arm yourself with a Czech ballad primer, or, more realistically just give up and acknowledge that if a song’s not about love, loss, despair, forests or gnats, it must be about horses. This may be an insuperable linguistic problem for most, as ready internet translations of source material are hard to find. Nevertheless, given the specialist nature of these LP performances, I suspect hard-core Czech specialists will want them anyway.

Jonathan Woolf

Track listing
1. Vandrovali hudci / Wandering Fiddlers [5:42]
2. Stroj se, panno, stroj se / Make Ready, Maid, Make Ready [5:03]
3. Hořelo srdéčko / A Heart on Fire [2:02]
4. Andělíku rozkochaný / Frolicking Little Angel [4:50]
5. Zaříkání milého / Conjuring My Beloved [8:49]
6. Tanec (in C) / Dance in C [3:14]
7. Plouli jsou rytíři ... (Nalezená sestra) / The Knights They Crossed the River Stream (A Sister Lost and Found) [5:27]
8. Při jednej dolině / Down in the Valley [7:55
9. Vdala matička, vdala svou dceru / One Mother Her Daughter Married off [5:35]
10. Na mšu svatú zvonijú / The Bells Are Chiming for the Mass [5:21]
11. Zabil jest Matoušek (Matoušek a Majdalenka) / Young Matthew his Sweetheart Slew [4:03]
12. Pase ovčák ovce / The Shepherd He Was His Flock Herding [2:54]
13. Stála svatba, stála / The Wedding Feast It Was So Long [6:55]
14. Komáři se ženili / The Gnats' Wedding [2:55]



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