SMETANA: Czech Song; SUK: Fairy Tale, Op. 16; NOVAK: Slovak Suite, Op. 32 – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/ Prague Philharmonic Choir/ Vaclav Talich – Supraphon

by | Sep 21, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

SMETANA: Czech Song; SUK: Fairy Tale, Op. 16; NOVAK: Slovak
Suite, Op. 32 – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/ Prague Philharmonic
Choir/ Vaclav Talich

Supraphon SU 3822-2  72:57  (Distrib. Qualiton) ****:

Supraphon initiates a major retrospective celebrating the triumphant
art of Vaclav Talich (1883-1961) whose “evangelical simplicity” has
ever beguiled my ear and heart. I was as eager to receive this Volume 2
as any kid in a candy store: the issue of the 6 November 1954 Smetana
Czech Song in its first CD release was cause enough; and though the Suk
and Novak works have had prior issue, I would likely not enjoy the
opportunity to comment on them without a current forum. Anyone new to
the Talich experience should acquire each of the first three entries to
the series: the other titles include the Dvorak Slavonic Dances (SU
3821) and the Janacek Taras Bulba coupled with Suk’s The Ripening (SU
3823), the latter of which provided Talich his international repute
when he premiered the work.

The qualities of any Talich interpretation–the beautiful full sound
and vivacity of the strings; the timbral elegance and gentle sheen in
the winds; the discipline of the brass and percussion–are in full
abundance in these three works. Smetana’s Czech Song (1878) has a
nationalist, patriotic text by Jan Marek (1803-1853), which Smetana set
for male chorus a cappella and then later arranged in the form we have
here. The musical style reminds one of Beethoven’s various choral
incidental arrangements; maybe the works Beethoven published Opp.
118-122 are an influence.  Suk’s Fairy Tale (1898) is based on the
drama Raduz and Mahulena by Julius Zeyer (1841-1901).  The strong
modal harmonies in the music provide Talich and his canny ensemble any
number of opportunities for color as well as visceral passion. The
Slovak Suite (1903) of Novak depicts a day in the life of a Moravian
village. The Amorous Couple movement is a study in the Mixolydian mode.
In both Suk and Novak we can relish the passing allusions to Wagner,
especially the Forest-Murmurs of Siegfried. The consistent blends of
strings, winds, and harp, first exploited by Smetana for The High
Castle of Ma Vlast, finds fascinating offspring in the next generation
of Czech composers. These are sensuous, brilliant renditions of Czech
national color works, and I insist collectors hie themselves to the
Qualiton website.

–Gary Lemco

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