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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Biblical Songs
1. I. Darkness and thunderclouds are round about him [2:27]
2. II. Lord my shield, my refuge and hope art thou [2:16]
3. III. Hear, oh hear my prayer, Lord my God [3:31]
4. IV. Oh, my shepherd is the Lord [2:42]
5. V. Songs of gladness will I sing thee [2:51]
6. VI. Hear, oh Lord, my bitter cry [3:09]
7. VII. By the shore of the river Babylon [3:15]
8. VIII. Oh, Lord, have mercy and turn thou thy face to me [3:05]
9. IX. My eyes will I to the hills lift up [2:20]
10. X. Oh, sing unto the Lord a joyful song [2:30]
Bedřich SMETANA (1824–1884)
Operatic arias
Dalibor (1868)
11. You know by now how our kingdom (Vladislav, act I) [2:25]
12. Change of scene (act II) [6:15]
13. At this late hour … Beautiful aim (Vladislav, act III) [5:54]
Libuše (1872)
14. The sun is blazing, a peaceful dream (Přemysl, act II) [5:54]
Tajemství (1878) (The Secret)
15. Overture [7:07]
16. I’m beggar (Kalina, act II) [5:49]
17. I’m soldier (Bonifác, act II) [3:28]
Čertova stėna (1882) (The Devil’s wall)
18. Overture [3:23]
19. Sleep my innocent one (Rarach act II) [5:37]
Adam Plachetka (bass-baritone)
Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra/Robert Jindra
rec. live, Zlín Congress Centre, 24 April 2014
No texts
RADIOSERVIS CR07242 [74:15]

It was fascinating to listen to the Biblical songs in both versions, one after the other, with the same singer (see review of version with piano). Plachetka's readings are basically very similar – the orchestral versions marginally slower, but it’s only a matter of seconds – warm, committed but with what I could describe as Slavonic tinge that removes any suspicion of sentimentality. I am in two minds concerning the orchestral version – only partly the work of the composer – which tends to smooth out and put a kind of aura around the voice. The piano version is straighter and, shall we call it prosaic.

The greatest difference is arguably in the final song, Oh, sing unto the Lord a joyful song, which in the orchestral version is exuberant and dancing. I am happy to have both versions.

The rest of the disc presents music from Smetana's operas, fairly little known in the West. Vladislav’s aria from act I of Dalibor is bold and intense. Plachetka’s timbre is at times not unlike Boris Christoff’s. The change of scene from the second act is an atmospheric piece with cello and harp exposed – beautiful indeed. The act III aria is great. There is applause that could have been faded much quicker. For repeated listening it becomes something of a nuisance.

I know Libuse better from a complete Supraphon recording from the sixties, which I also reviewed some five years ago (review). It is a very special work, more, in fact, a grand patriotic cantata for the Czech nation. The music is grandiose. Adam Plachetka sings Přemysl’s aria a lot better than his counterpart on the complete recording.

The Secret (1878) was Smetana’s seventh opera. The overture is a mighty piece with some fugal writing in the middle and a whirlwind finale. It actually surprised me that the audience could withhold their applause. Two different characters are also portrayed, Kalina and Bonifác. It’s a pity there are no texts included in this issue. As it is we only get a generalised description of the contents in the notes.

His last opera was The Devil’s Wall (1882). Another fine overture, short but efficient, and then the Devil Rarach’s aria from the second act. An interesting and valuable programme, well sung, and I only regret the absence of sung texts.

Göran Forsling



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