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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841–1904) Songs
Three Modern Greek Poems, Op. 50 (B.84b, 1883) [12:54] Gypsy Songs, Op. 55 (B.104, 1880)[13:45] Biblical Songs, Op. 99 (B.185, 1894) [26:30]
Adam Plachetka (bass-baritone)
Gary Matthewman (piano)
rec. 4-5 August 2014, studio No. 1, Czech Radio, Prague
No texts enclosed RADIOSERVIS CR07292 [53:40]
A powerful bass-baritone, dramatic expression – a Mephisto voice if you like. It will not surprise me if Adam Plachetka, who made his debut at the National Theatre in Prague in 2005, steps up to that repertoire before long. So far he has been singing a lot of Mozart, also since he became a permanent member of the Vienna State Opera in 2010. Today he is also frequently seen as a guest at Covent Garden, The Met and will make his debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in the 2015/16 season. His is certainly a powerful voice but he can also scale it down for the intimate moments. His soft singing is smooth and beautiful. Listen to the middle song in Op. 50, Nereids, which is the equivalent of the slow movement in a symphonic work.
It is interesting to learn from the excellent liner-notes, that the cycle was first performed with orchestra but that, unfortunately, the orchestral score is lost. The big-boned music actually cries out for orchestra but I do admit that Gary Matthewman makes the most of the dramatic piano part.
The critics at the time of the first performance took Dvorak to task 'for coupling the translation of an exotic text in an inorganic manner with purely Slavonic music'. I quite agree. The music here is a far cry from the typical Dvorak melos, and this becomes even clearer when we move over to the Gypsy Songs. These are melodically not very ‘Gypsy-like’ and include the best known of Dvorak’s songs, Songs my mother taught me. The lively No. V is arguably the closest to gypsy style. They are indeed charming, the whole group and the final song, Give the hawk a fine cage is second cousin to, say, Brahms’ Hungarian dances. It is interesting to learn that the singer who commissioned the songs and also premiered them on 4 February 1881 was Viennese tenor Gustav Walter, one of the earliest born singers to have his voice preserved on record.
The Biblical songs were composed in 1894, just four months after the New York premiere of the New World Symphony. They are inward and here sensitively interpreted. I have long admired Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s recording of the songs, and Adam Plachetkas’s reading in no way supplants that of the older master, but Fischer-Dieskau only recorded six of them, while Plachetka sings all ten. He sings in the original language, whereas Fischer-Dieskau’s is in a German translation.
These songs must be counted among Dvorak’s most personal creations and Adam Plachetka’s readings are deeply involved. The final song, so full of joy, is a great conclusion to the cycle as well as to the whole disc. The recording is faultless.
Track listing Three Modern Greek Poems, Op. 50 (B.84b, 1883) [12:54]
1. I. Koljas (Klepht song) [3:37]
2. II. Nereids (Ballad) [4:53]
3. III. Parga’s lament (Heroic song) [4:28]
Gypsy Songs, Op. 55 (B.104, 1880)[13:45]
4. I. My song of love rings through the dusk [2:44]
5. II. Hey! Ring out, my triangle [1:16]
6. III. All round about the woods are still [3:03]
7. IV. When my mother taught me songs she cherished dearly [2:17]
8. V. Come and join the dancing, pipes and fiddle follow [1:12]
9. VI. Wide the sleeves and trousers of the gypsy songman [1:21]
10. VII. Gove a hawk a fine cage [1:15]
Biblical Songs, Op. 99 (B.185, 1894) [26:30]
11. I. Darkness and thunderclouds are round about him [2:15]
12. II. Lord my shield, my refuge and hope art thou [2:10]
13. III. Hear, oh hear my prayer, Lord my God [3:18]
14. IV. Oh, my shepherd is the Lord [2:44]
15. V. Songs of gladness will I sing thee [2:43]
16. VI. Hear, oh Lord, my bitter cry [3:06]
17. VII. By the shore of the river Babylon [3:19]
18. VIII. Oh, Lord, have mercy and turn thou thy face to me [2:46]
19. IX. My eyes will I to the hills lift up [2:19]
20. X. Oh, sing unto the Lord a joyful song [1:58]