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Mozart: Horn Concertos & Quintet

Mozart: Horn Concertos & Quintet


Mozart:

Horn Quintet in E flat, K407

Horn Concertos Nos. 1-4 (complete)


Radek Baborák (french horn)

Baborák Ensemble

Precious few have as much to say about Mozart’s horn concertos as does the superlative, internationally renowned Czech horn player Radek Baborák, who for a number of years was a soloist of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

An artist with a penchant for seeking out the new, he has joined forces with other outstanding musicians (including Štěpán Kratochvíl, from the Münchner Philharmoniker and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, and Vilém Kionka, from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) so as to interpret the pieces as arranged for horn and string quartet: “I liked the idea of presenting the concertos in the form they may have been heard when Mr. Leutgeb would visit the Mozarts’ home, get together with Mr. Michael Haydn and Mr. Süssmayr, and make music.”

In Mozart’s time, such treatments were quite common (Michael Haydn, for instance, transcribed the Rondo from Concerto No. 3), with their serving to pinpoint the dialogue between the virtuoso parts of the first violin and the horn. According to the preserved correspondence, Mozart tried his hand at the horn, which he found highly amusing. The composer wrote most of his horn works for his older friend, the far-famed virtuoso Joseph Leutgeb. His mocking comments in the score (“Wolfgang Amadé Mozart takes pity on Leutgeb, ass, ox, and simpleton.”), as well as writing Concerto No. 4 in inks of four colours, bear witness to the close relationship between the two artists. This playfulness and the sheer joy of making music together are duly reflected in this inspiring album, recorded by Radek Baborák and friends.

Following the album’s release, the Baborák Ensemble will be setting out on an extensive autumn tour of Japan. Radek Baborák says: “We’re really looking forward to visiting Japan, it will be our second trip to this musicians’ paradise. The local audiences are very attentive, there will certainly be in attendance a number of my fans, who will be listening carefully to every single note I will play. Yet that which I am looking forward to the most is the complete naturalness with which the Japanese music promoters, be they directors of concert halls, producers or managers, accept the fact that we have come to perform something unique, and how they are able to appreciate it by affording us the necessary scope and respect for our artistry and personalities. Besides playing with the Baborák Ensemble, this year I will also conduct the Tokyo Philharmonic, the New Japan Philharmonic and the Yamagata Chamber Orchestra. Moreover, I will be giving a few solo recitals and appearing at the special concert marking the 100th performance of the Mito Chamber Orchestra, along with Seiji Ozawa. Then, in January, the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra and I will celebrate W. A. Mozart’s birthday. Performing in Japan is a sheer joy!”

Building a Library

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Martinu: Ariane & Double Concerto

Martinu: Ariane & Double Concerto


Martinu:

Ariane

Libretto by Bohuslav Martinů after Georges Neveux’s play “Le Voyage de Thésée”

Simona Saturová (Ariane), Zoltán Nagy (Theseus), Baurzhan Anderzhanov (Minotaurus), Abdellah Lasri (Bouroun/Wachmann), Tijl Faveyts (Alter Mann)

Aalto-Theater Essen Choir soloists

Double Concerto for Strings, Piano & Timpani

Ivo Kahánek (piano)


Essener Philharmoniker, Tomáš Netopil

A great story within a single Act – the dreamy Ariane of Simona Šaturová and Tomáš Netopil.

“I am writing a new small opera, a one‐acter, as I would also like to have a rest from the grand‐scale opera, The Greek Passion, which has taken its toll.” Martinů composed Ariane within a mere month, in the summer of 1958. The Greek myth of Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, King of Crete, who helps Theseus slay the Minotaur, has been set to music by a number of renowned composers. Martinů was captivated by Georges Neveux’s drama Le Voyage de Thésée, on which he based his own libretto. Theseus is portrayed as a split personality, struggling with himself and overwhelmed by love for a woman.

Tomáš Netopil and his Essener Philharmoniker have made a new recording of the opera some 30 years after the one created by Václav Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic. An extraordinary account of the title role is given by Simona Šaturová, whose final lament as the abandoned Ariane is simply breathtaking. Besides the opera, the CD also features the Double Concerto, a work representing the apex of the composer’s French period and written amidst dramatic circumstances. Martinů began sketching it in the summer of 1938, at a time when a tense atmosphere dominated Europe, and this omnipresent fear and discomposure are also reflected in the piece: “... I have the impression that the tragic events, which we still remember … and this fraught atmosphere is engraved on these very pages.” Martinů duly imbued it with his strong emotions relating to the fate of his homeland: “It is a piece lived through under difficult circumstances, yet it possesses neither despair nor gloom, but implies revolt, courage and an unshakable faith in the future, expressed by means of abrupt dramatic surges, a current of notes that does not stop for a second…”

“This “light-hearted comedy” on the well worn subject of the Minotaur myth owes more, perhaps, to French baroque than to “grand” opera...The cast is entirely non-French...but Simona Saturova sings the title role with bright, penetrating, occasionally strident tone and has excellent support from Zoltan Nagy (Théseus), Baurzhan Anderzhanov (Minotaur) and Abdellah Lasri (Bouron, Guard)....Netopil conducts with complete conviction.” Sunday Times, 14th August 2016

“this recording, made live in 2014 in Essen, is the first in around 30 years – and it’s very much worthwhile, thanks to a strong, idiomatic cast, conductor Tomáš Netopil’s sympathy with the score, and the Essen orchestra’s flowing, characterful performance.” The Guardian ****

“Netopil and the Essen Philharmonic find a lot for the listener to dive into: cool, glassy edges (prominent piano and glockenspiel), pulsing strings and ritualistic rhythms that hint at Ancient Greece. Best of all are three chewy orchestral interludes that give the piece a baroque flavour, in mood if not harmony.” The Times, 19th August 2016 ****

Presto Discs of 2016

Finalist

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Martinu: The Complete Piano Trios

Martinu: The Complete Piano Trios

Recorded at the Martínek Studio, Prague, between May 2015 and January 2016


Martinu:

Piano Trio No. 1 'Cinq pièces brèves', H. 193

Piano Trio No. 2 in D minor, H327

Bergerettes - Five Pieces for Violin, Cello and Piano

Piano Trio No. 3 in C major, H332


Smetana Trio: Jitka Čechová (piano), Jiří Vodička (violin) & Jan Páleníček (cello)

The complete set of Bohuslav Martinů’s piano trios affords a fascinating insight into the constant transformations of his musical idiom from the early 1930s to the 1950s, also giving testimony to the composer as a human and his particular mindset.

The first, five-movement, trio, Cinq pièces brèves (1930) was written in a carefree manner (within a mere ten days) and intuitively. It is the very first Martinů piece to reflect his penchant for Neo--‐Baroque music, so salient a trait of his later creations. The second trio, Bergerettes, comes across as surprisingly light-hearted, given the time of its coming into being – in February 1939, a month prior to the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and half a year before the outbreak of World War II ... The last two piano trios, composed in the 1950s, bear all the features of Martinů’s mature musical phraseology. Trio No. 2, completed in 1950, ranks among the apices of Martinů’s Neo--‐Classicist period, while the structurally more complex Trio No. 3 (also known as the “Grand Trio”) has a concertante nature.

The recording of the complete Martinů trios was made by the renowned Smetana Trio, who masterfully render all the colour shades, from airiness to the broad lyrical cantilena typical of Martinů’s late works.

The first new Supraphon album of the complete Martinů piano trios in more than 30 years …

“The virtuoso demands of this hugely attractive music are meat and drink to these wonderful Czech musicians, including Jitka Cechova. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a better way to get to know this exhilarating and fresh music than from the hands, heads and hearts of the Smetanas.” Sunday Times, 3rd April 2016

“it's already obvious that the music for piano trio performed here by the Smetana Trio is going straight on the shortlist for 2016. Martinu's chamber music reveals originality at every turn; there's so much of it, but each new discovery — sonata, duo, trio, quartet, serenade — seems to unveil a gem….It's hard to imagine more ardent champions for this visceral, unpredictable music. And clear, warm sound is exactly what we've come to expect from the Supraphon label over the years.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2016 *****

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - June 2016

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2017

Chamber Winner

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Smetana: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2

Smetana: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2


Smetana:

String Quartet No. 1 in E minor 'From My Life'

String Quartet No. 2 in D minor


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Following their 2014 Gramophone Award-winning recording of Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor 'Death and the Maiden' and the Quintet in C major, the Quartet are returning once again to the work of a Czech composer.

On their new CD the Quartet will be playing Bedřich Smetana’s Quartet No. 1 in E minor 'From My Life' and Quartet No. 2 in D minor.

Pavel Haas Quartet was formed in 2002 and bears the name of Pavel Haas (1899-1944), a Czech composer of the first half of the 20th century. Since 2004 the Quartet has won many prestigious awards, including first place in the Prague Spring International Music Festival, BBC Music Magazine Chamber Choice, the MIDEM Classical Award, and three Gramophone awards.

Gramophone wrote that the Pavel Haas Quartet "represents the best qualities of the Czech tradition – warmth, sonorousness, individuality, intensity.”

“in their native repertoire they are well nigh incomparable. I have not heard an account of “From My Life”...that prepares us so starkly, in its turbulent opening Allegro vivo appassionato, for its tragic outcome...And it’s hard to imagine a more compelling or harrowing take on the less frequently programmed D minor quartet.” Sunday Times, 3rd May 2015

“The PHQ understand absolutely the plasticity of Smetana’s vision and convey it unerringly, unshrinkingly – and in some ways even more convincingly than the Talich, which is saying something. This is extraordinarily bold playing – and they truly capture the sense that Smetana is writing symphonic quartet music.” Gramophone Magazine

Presto Disc of the Week

13th April 2015

Presto Discs of 2015

Winner

GGramophone Awards 2015

Winner - Chamber

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - May 2015

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2016

Chamber Winner

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Schubert: Death And The Maiden & String Quintet In C Major

Schubert: Death And The Maiden & String Quintet In C Major


Schubert:

String Quintet in C major, D956

with Danjulo Ishizaka (cello)

String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D810 'Death and the Maiden'


The highly anticipated new recording from the Gramophone Recording of the Year winners in 2011.

Two years on from their award winning Dvorak album, the Pavel Haas Quartet turn their attention to Schubert’s two late masterpiece.

The String Quartet in D minor has a sort of dark cipher encoded within. The title “Death and the Maiden” reflects the quotation from Schubert’s eponymous song in the second movement. The theme of death is also underlined by other quotations and the choice of the key of D minor, which according to the period definition is characterised by “heavy-hearted womanliness, spleen and foreboding”.

Schubert completed his String Quintet in C major for an uncommon formation with two cellos a mere two months before his death. Its instrumentation occasionally gives an almost orchestral impression, with the cello playing a significant role as the bearer of melody.

The Pavel Haas Quartet invited along a distinguished friend to the recording sessions, the exceptional German-Japanese cellist Danjulo Ishizaka, whose qualities were concisely described by Mstislav Rostropovich: “Phenomenal in his technical ability, perfect in his musical creative power”.

“Throughout, their understanding of the musical argument is exemplary...at every stage the performers respond with both passion and a clear feeling for musical line...In truth, there are so many details that delight the ear it would be almost impossible to list the all” BBC Music Magazine

“This album is scalding to the touch. [the Haas's accounts] are irresistible not only for immaculate surfaces, but for effortless engagement of that grief-stricken quality beneath Schubert’s shows of gaiety and even his most serene assurances.” Sunday Times, 15th September 2013

“If CDs had grooves I would already have worn out these marvellous recordings...The young Czechs have the perfect fusion of virtuosity and profundity.” The Times, 21st September 2013 *****

“The Pavel Haas Quartet, with the superb extra cellist Danjulo Ishizaka, even succeed where most other ensembles fail, making the last movement of the String Quintet into something that seems a fitting conclusion to a work whose first three movements are unquestionably supreme...essential listening for anyone who loves Schubert.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas Issue 2013 *****

“The perfect fusion of virtuosity and profundity from the young Czechs of the Pavel Haas Quartet in Schubert. Death and the Maiden is given the more melodramatic reading, but the subtly nuanced performance of the Quintet in C is sublime.” The Times, 14th December 2013

“For me, the performance here ticks all the right boxes. From the opening chords, you feel that these young players are taking you on a journey. Having a clear vision and understanding of the structure of the music, they explore its full emotional range. Warmth and expressive phrasing are a distinguishing hallmark...These young players are a force to be reckoned with” MusicWeb International, December 2013

“we’re treated here to performances of not only great refinement and polish, but also real emotional depth...A combination of subtle elasticity of tempo whilst never slowing too much gives this performance [of Death and the Maiden] great structural coherency from beginning to end.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 23rd December 2013

GGramophone Awards 2014

Winner - Chamber

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2013

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Vaclav Talich Live 1939

Vaclav Talich Live 1939


 

Czech National Anthem (from record)

Dvorak:

Slavonic Dances Nos. 9-16, Op. 72 Nos. 1-8

Smetana:

Má Vlast


The sound, the name, the first international successes, as well as the first recordings made by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, are inseparably linked with the name of Václav Talich. The recordings contained on this CD originated under truly exceptional circumstances and document unrepeatable moments.

The performance of Smetana’s My Country on 5 June 1939 in Nazi-occupied Protectorate Prague – and what’s more, at the National Theatre, perceived as a symbol of national cohesion – was an expressive manifestation of Talich’s patriotism. The moment’s sheer emotional charge gave rise to what may justly be considered the conductor’s finest recording of My Country and, following a long-lasting ovation, the enthusiastic audience spontaneously rounded off the concert by singing the Czech national anthem.

The presented recording of this concert and that of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, which was performed at the National Theatre four days later, have been preserved owing to their direct transmission to several European cities. The recording was made by Radio Norway, which possessed the most advanced audiorecording technology of the time. Talich’s My Country, exuding defiance and a resolve to protect freedom, stands in stark contrast to Rafael Kubelík’s legendary 1990 My Country, which reflects the euphoria at the regaining of freedom. This recording, first released by the Czech Philharmonic, was hailed by the distinguished critic Rob Cowan in Gramophone magazine as perhaps the most powerful My Country to have ever been recorded.

“It is not hard to imagine what music portraying such a story meant to the oppressed people at that concert in 1939 and after having already burst into wild applause at the end of each poem the triumphant conclusion of Blaník is greeted with massed shouts of approval before the audience spontaneously launches into the national anthem. It is incredibly moving and all captured on a newly issued Supraphon recording.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 19th December 2011

Presto Disc of the Week

19th December 2011

GGramophone Awards 2012

Special Award

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Beethoven: String Trios

Beethoven: String Trios

Recorded live at the concert of the 15th Prague Spring International Music Festival at the Rudolfinum, June 2, 1960


Beethoven:

String Trio in G major, Op. 9 No. 1

String Trio in C minor, Op. 9 No. 3

String Trio in E flat major, Op. 3


This CD, the latest title within the acclaimed Russian Masters series, presents three towering Russian musicians. At a superb 1960 Prague Spring festival concert, Kogan, Barshai and Rostropovich performed together three of Beethoven’s four string trios. These pieces are seldom played in combination since they require from the musicians a rare combination of virtuosity and humility, as well as mutual respect between the chamber players.

There is no doubt as to the sheer virtuosity of these musicians; at their previous concerts at that year’s Prague Spring all three of them had presented themselves as superlative soloists (at the festival, Rostropovich also performed in Czech premiere Shostakovich’s first cello concerto). Leonid Kogan – one of the most distinguished representatives of the Russian violin school; the violist Rudolf Barshai – co-founder of the celebrated Borodin Quartet and later on a renowned conductor; Mstislav Rostropovich – simply a phenomenal cellist... Three soloists whose encounter on a single stage was a veritable feast for chamber-music lovers and one of the apices of the Prague Spring. Now, half a century later, you too can savour this remarkable concert.

Three legends on one stage – a precious encounter you can again enjoy, half a century on!

“And there's freedom aplenty in these vigorous, highly charged performances...These are strong-jawed readings with a great sense of purpose...Another asset to this set is the violinist himself, Leonid Kogan, whose tone is searing in its intensity...this new release captures a compelling moment in history: it must have been some evening!” Gramophone Magazine, August 2011

GGramophone Awards 2011

Finalist - Historic

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Suk: Asrael Symphony, Op. 27

Suk: Asrael Symphony, Op. 27

Recorded live at the Rudolfinum, Prague, on April 5-6, 2007


Suk’s Asrael – Sir Charles Mackerras’s unreleased recording with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

Josef Suk began writing the funeral symphony Asrael to commemorate his teacher and father-in-law Antonín Dvořák. During the course of work, however, Fate dealt him another crushing blow: Asrael, the Angel of Death, took away Suk’s wife and Dvořák’s daughter, Otilie. The symphony is a story of a suffering whose strength seems simply unendurable, yet also a story of its overcoming, seeking solace and hope.

Sir Charles Mackerras’s live recording of Asrael originated on a Good Friday, 6 April 2007, one hundred years after the symphony’s premiere. The Australian conductor had first heard about the Asrael some sixty years previously from Suk’s close friend, Václav Talich. In later years Mackerras confessed that he perceived the work in a completely different light after his daughter had died. Sir Charles conducted Suk’s Asrael during one of his last performances with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. It is also his last previously unreleased recording with this orchestra.

“There are so many moments that come memorably to life in this reading...the driving energy of Mackerras's conducting is thrilling, and the combination of clarity and warmth that he finds in Suk's orchestral textures comes across impressively...it's quite simply the greatest performance I've ever heard of Asrael” International Record Review, March 2011

“Mackerras has the advantage of an orchestra that has lived and breathed this music for 100 years — it was premiered exactly a century before these concerts — and his own deep involvement with Czech music gives him persuasive insights.” Sunday Times, 20th March 2011 ****

“Mackerras's performance has a wonderful objectivity about it, as well as a quiet intimacy in the more reflective moments. Superbly played, it's a perfect demonstration of why Mackerras was a great conductor, and of his ability to bring the best out of whoever and whatever he was conducting.” The Guardian, 31st March 2011 ****

“The Czech Philharmonic’s live performance breathes a conviction and beneath-the-skin rapture that you won’t find in any other recording.” Financial Times, 16th April 2011 ****

“Asrael encompasses formal experiment, superb orchestration, a magnificent grasp of scale and, above all, an unerring feel for catharsis...Charles Mackerras's performance encapsulates all of these qualities...Not only does he see the staggering originality of Suk's vision, but, effortlessly, he folds into his interpretation the depth of his knowledge of the Czech repertoire...this is the closest to the definitive version we have.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2011 *****

“Mackerras keeps a shrewdly tight rein on Suk's huge structure, while allowing impressive momentum and emotional firepower to build in the big central scherzo movement...a remarkable performance of a remarkable work.” Classic FM Magazine, June 2011 ****

Presto Disc of the Week

21st March 2011

GGramophone Awards 2011

Finalist - Orchestral

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2011

BBC Music Magazine

Orchestral Choice - May 2011

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Bach, J S: Cello Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV1007-1012

Bach, J S: Cello Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV1007-1012

Recorded live at the concerts of the 10th Prague Spring International Music Festival at the Rudolfinum, May 26– 27, 1955


Today, Bach’s suites form part of the repertoire of every distinguished cellist, and many of them have recorded the complete cycle.

Yet when sixty years ago the twenty-four-year-old Mstislav Rostropovich (1927–2007) first performed all the suites in public, it was a trailblazing act, linking up to the previous endeavour of Pablo Casals. When this live recording was made in 1955 at the Prague Spring festival, Rostropovich was 28 years of age.

He astounded the audience with his youthful verve and surprising artistic maturity. At the festival Rostropovich met his lifelong love, Galina Vishnevskaya, whom upon returning to Moscow he married after several days of acquaintance.

When in 1991 the cellist made a complete recording of the Bach suites in France, he was 64. Hence, all the more precious is this live recording from the Czech Radio archives, which waited more than half a century for its release. As a lover and connoisseur of wine, Rostropovich would certainly agree that some wines – and some recordings too – acquire a richer taste and a higher value over time. A sensational, newly discovered 1955 Rostropovich recording of the Bach suites.

GGramophone Awards 2011

Shortlisted - Historic

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Dvorak: String Quartets Nos. 12 & 13

Dvorak: String Quartets Nos. 12 & 13


Dvorak:

String Quartet No. 13 in G major, Op. 106 (B192)

String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 'American'


"I’m satisfied. It went quickly... " Antonín Dvořák jotted down at the end of the sketch for his String Quartet Op. 96. The work, one of the most beautiful quartet pieces in the history of music, originated in America hard on the heels of the “New World” Symphony. I wanted to write for once something very melodious and simple, and I always kept Papa Haydn before my eyes. The American critics lavished it with praise: “Why didn’t Dvořák come here earlier, since he can write such great music in America.” The “American” quartet, and, perhaps to an even greater extent, the subsequent quartet, Op. 106, the first composition Dvořák created after his return from America, are a heartfelt matter for the youthful Pavel Haas Quartet.

In the wake of the previous, highly acclaimed recordings of the complete quartet works of Janáček, Haas and Prokofiev (Classic FM Gramophone Award, BBC Music Magazine Award, MIDEM Cannes Classical Award, etc.), the ensemble displays its outstanding qualities performing the paramount Dvořák pieces too: equilibrium between precision and spontaneity, remarkable interplay and the “solo” potential of all the musicians.

The most popular Dvořák’s chamber repertoire performed by one of the world’s most exciting string quartets.

“The Pavel Haas players revel in the turbulence of the opening movement, but they savour the lyricism of the beautiful adagio, the rhythmic energy of the scherzo and the exuberance of the finale’s fiery allegro. Their account of the American Quartet belongs alongside the greatest performances on disc. In this repertoire, they are simply matchless today.” Sunday Times, 14th November 2010 *****

“The Pavel Haas Quartet play with plenty of feeling and they also relish the rhythmic cut and thrust of the Molto vivace third movement, capturing to perfection the more relaxed Trio's sunny spirit.The final opens to a gentle smile then keys up for some dancing exuberance...there's an abundance of varied drama” Gramophone Magazine, December 2010

“Throughout, their understanding of the musical argument is exemplary...at every stage the performers respond with both passion and a clear feeling for musical line...In truth, there are so many details that delight the ear it would be almost impossible to list the all” BBC Music Magazine, December 2010 *****

“there's an arresting energy and atmosphere to the performances and they certainly contain new perspectives...the product is beautifully presented.” Classic FM Magazine, January 2011 ***

“The freshness of the Pavel Haas Quartet's sound and approach is in the main a perfect match for this music: its wide-ranging palette, from intimate whispers to grander, symphonic gestures, is aptly deployed. Its tone is in general sweetly blended, homogenous and with obvious close rapport.” International Record Review, December 2010

Presto Disc of the Week

10th October 2011

GGramophone Awards 2011

Record of the Year

Building a Library

First Choice - April 2011

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - December 2010

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

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