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OSKAR NEDBAL (1874-1930) Orchestral Music Carlsbad SO/Douglas Bostock recorded Karlovy Vary, January 1997 ClassicO CLASSCD192 [61:07]



Nedbal may not be all that well known to you. Certainly until I auditioned this disc I had not heard anything by him. I had noticed a Supraphon disc some years ago but had not bothered to explore it. On this showing he is to be recognised and appreciated as a fine light music composer to be spoken of in the same breath as the British composers Eric Coates, Coleridge Taylor, Montague Phillips and Albert Ketèlbey.

Nedbal is remembered as the Czech Johann Strauss. He was born in Tabor in South Bohemia and wrote seven operettas, five ballets, marches, polkas and waltzes. He studied under Dvorak and his fellow pupils included Vitezlav Novak and Josef Suk. Like Suk, Nedbal joined the Bohemian Quartet and remained with them from 1891 to 1906. He also conducted the mainstream as well as Fibich, Novak and Suk. His last years were spent in Bratislava as conductor of the Slovakian city's radio orchestra and the National Theatre.

The first two works are for violin and orchestra. Romance sings over a rocking rhythm in the nature of a serenade rather like Tchaikovsky's Souvenir d'un Lieu Cher. The soloist, Vladislav Linetzky, continues with a Serenade which is more of the same but a littleless languid. This is much more attractive as an essay similar to the Havanaise by Saint-Saens. This is all done with great poise. and accompanied with restraint and poetic insight by Bostock and the Carlsbaders. Both works date from 1893.

The waltz Forest Bells is winningly faltering and yet sumptuous with romantic aspiration: all lanterns and perpetual twilight. A Tchaikovskian wallow.

The Scherzo Capriccioso (1892) is very Dvorakian but with dramatic moments out of Schumann. The string tone of the orchestra is not all it should be though I have heard far worse. It is Dvorak's Symphonic Variations rather than his identically named 1883 work. which are recalled by the Nedbal work. This is Nedbal's most ambitious 'serious' orchestral composition.

With a title like Suite Mignonne Nedbal's 1902-3 work it will come as no surprise to you to hear that this work belongs to the cavernously deep heritage of salon music. It began life as Aus dem Kinderleben for solo piano. This is very Viennese hesitant dance music.

Czech Polka is and unnervingly unison Scottish string music.

The soulful Romance for cello and orchestra (1899) has the impassioned inner qualities of Frank Bridge's suite for cello and orchestra -

Die Keutsche Barbara (The Chaste Barbara), apparently one of Nedbal's best operettas, was premiered in Vienna in 1911. The music is light, charming, relaxed - Brahmsian like something from the Hungarian Dances. However here the intonation of the strings began to show up as deficient under pressure. There is a thin quality to the string sound which is out of keeping with music which was clearly written for the sumptuous plush of a great string section. Nevertheless the spirit is well caught by the orchestra. Bostock's great eloquence sweeps away small reservations about string sound. (4:53).

Die Winzerbraut Overture (1916) (The Winegrower's Bride) sounds very southern (Italian or Spanish perhaps). The operetta was premiered in Vienna in 1916.

These two overtures whet the appetite for a CD entirely devoted to Nedbal's operetta overtures. On this evidence they are sparkling examples of the genre. Good sleeve notes by Mogens Wenzel Andreason. Suitable art-deco style cover art. I wish the font chosen for the text had been one which was easier to read.

The disc claims to include world premiere recordings but does not say which of the 12 pieces featured fall into this category.

In summary a fine collection but with some of the gloss taken off by the occasional orchestral shortcomings. Bostock however seems utterly committed to the music and it lacks nothing in lively poetry. The sole problem is the orchestra or parts of it - notably the violins. Perhaps more rehearsal time would have helped.

Orchestral blemishes notwithstanding this seems a good introduction to the composer's music. Recommended for those whose palates have become jaded by the waltzing Strausses but who would like to explore other composers active in that field.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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