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Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1928) Folk Poetry of Hukvaldy in Songs (1898)
Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs (selection) (pub. 1908)
Martina Janková (soprano) Tomáš Král (baritone) Ivo Kahánek (piano)
rec. October 2014 and April 2015, Martinů Hall, Academy of Music, Prague
Full texts and translations included SUPRAPHON SU4183-2 [83:27]
Janáček’s Moravian songs occupy a distinctive place in his output, and were largely the result of his enthusiastic ethnomusicological research projects. Collected by the composer and ethnographer František Bartoš in 1890 in an anthology of 174 songs called A Bouquet of Moravian Songs, they were distilled to 53 songs in 1908 under the title Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs. 38 have been selected for performance in the disc under review. Unlike other discs it’s often the case here that the two singers swap verses within a song. This breaks down the monothematic he/she approach and adds variety, though it can sometimes rather go against the sense of several of the songs. Tomáš Král has a rather light, veiled baritone both sympathetic and, when necessary, agile. Martina Janková is a thoughtful soprano, never straining even when pushed high. They offer performances that marry tonal refinement with some acutely perceptive singing - abetted by Martinů specialist Ivo Kahánek’s fine pianism, which remains subtle as occasion demands or establishes the often mercurial folkloric rhythms for his colleagues.
That said, these songs can take a variety of approaches from the wild near-iconoclasm of Iva Bittová to the quasi-operatic approach of tenor Leo Marian Vodička and soprano Zdena Kloubová – with the ever-outstanding Radoslav Kvapil - on Unicorn-Kanchana LP DKP9154. One of the most powerful of these settings is Milenec vrah and Kloubová is much more powerfully-voiced and projected than Janková, whose account is more like reportage than truly felt experience. In general the Unicorn-Kanchana team is the more heavily voiced, the more ‘lived’ interpretatively, and the more inclined to a degree of extrovert passion. The most direct opposition for this disc is Supraphon’s own two-disc set which replicates the repertoire, and was recorded two decades ago now and featured three of the country’s finest artists – Pecková, Kusnjer and Lapšanský (SU 11 2214-2) – the last named is the pianist who has done so much for the Fibich discography. This single disc is presumably a replacement. Regrettably the earlier Supraphon is not a set I’ve ever heard.
In Karafiát the drama evoked by the more vibrato-laden voice of Vodička vests it with a sense of tragic loss whereas Král is more inclined to recollect in tranquillity. The beautiful song Tužba is heard to better effect from Zdena Kloubová, who is much more touching than Janková. I ought to add that you could take dictation from Kloubová, whereas her competitor’s articulation is surprisingly indistinct all too often. In Koníčky milého Kloubová has more of the glinting youthful girl about her, perhaps surprisingly, though it’s no surprise that she is the more passionate. A pattern is therefore emerging of greater expressive inflection with the older team, allied to a greater level of personalisation, abetted by voices that evince emotions – love, loss – more viscerally.
The thirteen Hukvaldy songs are similarly efficient and pleasing in this reading; again the singers are apt to swap verses, and once again Kahánek’s accompaniment is a distinct plus – full of colour and rhythmic vivacity – and he brings out the kooky element of V nasim dvore dub very well, as he does the cimbalom impressions of Ty ukvalsky kostelicku – the second setting of the same name included here. Janková turns rather shrill in Co su to za tině?
So, in conclusion, the Supraphon team relies more on deft shading, control of dynamics and pianistic nuance to make its points. The approaches of both teams discussed, whilst widely divergent, depend for their success on the musical and intuitive skills of the exponents. For rather small-scaled but nevertheless subtle performances the new recording will give great pleasure. The different selection on Unicorn-Kanchana doesn’t include the Hukvaldy songs so direct comparison is invidious. Vodička is a tenor unlike the baritone Král, should that be a concern.
My own sympathies are fairly obvious by now and are for the older pairing but this Supraphon disc is valuable because of its wide range and clean-limbed approach.
Full track-listing CD 1
Folk Poetry of Hukvaldy in Songs 1 Ondraš, Ondraš [1:52]
2 Ty ukvalsky kosteličku! [0:40l
3 Ma mila mamulko [1:35]
4 Na tych fojtovych Lukach [1:21]
5 Proč kalinko smutna stojiš? [2:06]
6 Fojtova Hanka [0:23]
7 Pasavala kravarečka [1:03]
8 Co su to za tině? [1:13]
9 V našim dvoře dub [1:21]
10 Dyž sem ja šel přes černy les [5:41]
11 Ty ukvalsky kosteličku! [1:36]
12 Pan Buh vam zaplat’! [1:12]
13 Dyž sem ja šel kolem dvorka [0:50]