SMETANA: Ma Vlast: Vysehrad; Vltava -The Moldau; Sarka; From Bohemia’s Meadows and Forests; Tabor; Blanik – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/ Vaclav Talich – Naxos Historical

by | May 29, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

SMETANA: Ma Vlast: Vysehrad; Vltava -The Moldau; Sarka; From Bohemia’s Meadows and Forests; Tabor; Blanik – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/ Vaclav Talich

Naxos Historical 8.111237, 75:20 (Not Available in the USA) *****:

Among the great recordings that mark the total legacy of Czech master Vaclav Talich (1883-1961), his epic 1954 (10-12 June and 2-3 July) reading of the Smetana’s symphonic cycle My Country remains splendid on every level. The third of his inscriptions of this massive, patriotic work (the first two having appeared in 1929 and 1941), it evokes in Talich and his committed Czech players a fervent, resonantly clear and rhythmically supple series of tonal evocations of the landscape and sprit of a people. The opening harp riffs, suggesting the national bard, Lumir’s call to the muses, soon broadens to embrace an heroic ethos of pageantry and drama. The CPO plucked strings, woodwinds and brass chirp the Moldau’s early phase as a series of rivulets that soon the strings and harps expand into a mighty, life-giving flow. The musical line remains taut, the tension pitched forward, reminiscent of Toscanini in its rhythmic buoyancy, of Mitropoulos in its feverish insistence on individual colors. Even beyond the rustic niceties of the country dance, the night music on the river might well realize a seraph’s dream. When the Moldau passes the High Castle at Vysehrad, the power of musical convergence is shattering.

Sarka invites us in to the tumultuous world of legend, a passionate depiction of an Amazon princess bent on destruction. The velocity of the strings, the mix of march tempo topped by cymbals and triangle, make for an alchemical moment of conducting magic. In two sections, one lyrical and nostalgic, the other martial and pompous, the piece gains a whirling ferocity quite overwhelming. For sheer pantheistic vertigo, Talich’s opening from Bohemia’s Meadows and Forests has no competitor on record. An impressionistic quilt of dazzling color assaults our ears and eyes, only to break free into an energized Slavonic dance. Tabor and Blanik unite the Hussite consciousness of the Czech national pride. The call to arms must have resonated in Talich’s heart when he performed this monumental music in spite of Nazi decrees banning it. The militant, three-note tattoo of Tabor rises to a organ-like majesty of melodic expression rare in any music lover’s experience. This is an album quintessentially basic to the world’s music library.

Kudos to Mark Obert-Thorne’s sonic restorations of recordings already noted for their singularly limpid acoustics.

[Don’t be frustrated if you want to add this gem to your library but live in the U.S. – the same recording is available (used) on an LP or cassette on the Quintessence/Pickwick label…Ed.]

— Gary Lemco

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01