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Jaroslav KRČEK (b. 1939)
Oboe Concerto (2016) [15:25]
Violin Concerto (1979) [14:23]
Three Dances in Old Style (1983) [11:06]
The Music to the Lusatian Sorb Fable ‘The Secret of the Old Mill’ (c.2003) [13:07]
Gabriela Krčková (oboe)
Lenka Koubková Torgensen (violin)
Musica Bohemica Prague/Jaroslav Krček
Slovak Chamber Orchestra/Bohdan Warchal (Three Dances, with Musica Bohemica)
rec. 1986-2017, Domovina Studios & Lichtenstein Palace, Prague; Reduta Hall, Bratislava
ARCO DIVA UP0201-2131 [55:00]

I’ve written about Jaroslav Krček several times here, usually in the context of his restorations of ballads, in which role he starred as conductor, arranger and sometimes even instrument maker. He’s a visionary musician and a fine composer too, and Arco Diva has recently been busy restoring his music in advance of his eightieth birthday, which falls in 2019. One of these discs is devoted to his choral music and the one under review now offers a raft of what is called instrumental music – but which does contain concertos.

Originally for soloist and full symphony orchestra the 2016 Oboe Concerto is recast here for chamber band forces. It incarnates the essence of song. A beautiful and compact three-movement work built on traditional lines it contains just enough harmonic grit to stop things becoming too mellifluously idle and easy-going. There are some of his beloved baroque cadences along the way and a folkloric B section in the central Allegretto movement where pizzicati and swirling dance patterns predominate. Melancholy hues are suggested in the opening Lento of the finale, soon to be banished by terpsichorean fun.

The 1979 Violin Concerto opens with an arresting five note fanfare in the winds which ushers in the solo violin’s long-breathed lyricism with strong folk infusions. Resonant and deeply appealing it was written as a farewell for his teacher, Miloslav Kabeláč, who had died that year. Like the companion concerto this is the scaled-down chamber version.

The Dances in Old Style offer folk concerto grossi, with village band sonorities and generous charm throughout, with piping winds, and deft use of percussion from tambourine, amongst others. Cleverly he utilises two chamber groups and two conductors. One might think this something of an indulgence for so easy-going a work, but it works well here. The music for The Secret of the Old Mill was composed for a feature film and reminds one of Krček’s other filmic inspirations. There are six scenes in this selection, which inevitably offers only part of the full score. He is reunited here with Musica Bohemica, with whom he has performed and recorded so often, and to such tremendous effect. There are scenes of rain-lashed torrents, uneasy dreaming – nocturnal perspiration to the fore – a Dance of the Comedians with hurdy gurdy, and the classical elegance of a Market scene.

The recordings are drawn from disparate sources that stretch back to 1986 but the Oboe Concerto is, of course, newly minted. There’s a colourful booklet with plenty of photographs and texts in Czech and English. The performances are, as one might expect, full of energy and sensitivity. This is a fine retrospective and a salutary reminder of Krček’s warmth and human sympathies in his music-making.

Jonathan Woolf



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