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Bedrich Smetana (1824-84)

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Smetana: Czech dances & Six Characteristic Pieces

Smetana: Czech dances & Six Characteristic Pieces


Smetana:

Czech dances for piano, book 2 (10)

Six Characteristic Pieces for Piano, Op. 1


Jan Novotny (piano)

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Supraphon - SU30702

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Smetana: Dalibor

Smetana: Dalibor

Recorded at the Stadion hall, Brno, June 9 – September 2, 1979


Václav Zítek (King of Bohemia), Vilém Přibyl (Dalibor), Bohuslav Maršík (Budivoj), Jaroslav Horáček (Beneš), Miloš Ježil (Vítek), Eva Děpoltová (Milada), Naďa Šormová (Jitka) & Karel Hanuš (One of the judges)

Brno State Opera Chorus & Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra, Václav Smetáček

Bedřich Smetana’s opera Dalibor resembles a heroic canvas with miniature paintings of emotional turmoil in men’s hearts. The story which drew on the historical reports from 1497—1498 enabled the librettist Josef Wenzig to develop potent situations, some of which had already proven effective. Nevertheless, the composer chose another approach. The musical interpretation of the story, the characters and mainly their inner life was so autonomous and convincing that it made his final work timeless. He transformed the medieval subject matter of love at first sight into a hymn about defiance and freedom. He equipped the opera with well-arranged leitmotifs and made his characters musically vivid far beyond what the text had offered.

The rebellious haughtiness of the main hero was softened by emotional fervour whereas the main heroine’s grievance was balanced by repentance. Moreover, the ruler who is supposed to punish crime reveals his sensible nature and the minor folk characters gain human dimension in the opera. Through the detailed composition and the ever-repeating omen of tragic end the work achieved its constant inner suspense. Arias, ariosa, duets, choirs as well as interludes are brought together in a vast scene which supports the arch of grand musical architecture, the shape of which is not similar to others. Smetana’s Dalibor is well ahead of time due to its musical and dramatic properties. In addition, the demands for recitation make it progressive as well. The challenging voice parts of the main characters ranging from lyrical fineness to the dramatic vintage performance along with the emphasis on the powerful interpretation did not have their counterpart in the Czech opera until the time of Dalibor’s premiere in 1868.

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Supraphon - SU40912

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Smetana: Libuse

Smetana: Libuse

Recorded at Domovina Studio, Prague, November 9–11, 14, 22, 23 and December 10, 1965


Nadežda Kniplová (Libuše), Václav Bednár (Premysl), Milada Šubrtová (Krasava), Vera Soukupová (Radmila), Zdenek Kroupa (Chrudoš) & Ivo Žídek (Štáhlav)

Chorus and Orchestra of the Prague National Theatre, Jaroslav Krombholc

The opera Libuše occupies a unique position in Czech national culture. Smetana composed it as a festive opera to be performed on occasions celebrating the Czech nation. The first such was the opening of the National Theatre in Prague in 1881, when the work was premiered.

Supraphon’s catalogue already contains CDs of Smetana’s Libuše in two live complete recordings documenting the interpretational mastery of the artists associated with the National Theatre: the legendary recording of the performance in 1983 marking the reopening of the theatre after its reconstruction and featuring Gabriela Benacková in the lead role, and the 1995 recording of the new production of Libuše at the National, when the lead role was undertaken by Eva Urbanová. Now Supraphon is supplementing these recordings with a hitherto unreleased on CD older studio recording from 1965, when under Jaroslav Krombholc the lead role was rendered by Nadežda Kniplová.

The re-edition of this recording is part of the new Supraphon series titled Czech Opera Treasures, which aims to present recordings of complete operas not previously released on CD.

“This 1965 recording is not literally 'live' but has that lived-in feeling of having just walked over from theatre to microphone. With Kniplová (a Brünnhilde both on record and for Karajan) a magnificent, tireless Libuše and Soukupová's subtle take on Radmila...the women lead.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2010

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Supraphon Czech Opera Treasures - SU39822

(CD - 2 discs)

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Smetana: Má Vlast

Smetana: Má Vlast


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Supraphon Ancerl Gold Edition - SU36612

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Smetana: Má Vlast

Smetana: Má Vlast


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Supraphon - SU19102

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Smetana: Má Vlast

Smetana: Má Vlast


“Another memorable Prague Spring Festival concert, this time from May 1999 and featuring a maestro whose lifelong experience and wisdom in Slavonic repertoire require no further comment. As always the Czech Philharmonic play with an understanding of the idiom possessed by no other orchestra.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Supraphon - SU34652

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Smetana: Mà Vlast

Smetana: Mà Vlast


“Recorded at the 1990 Prague Spring Festival, Smetana's musical evocation of his Czech homeland has never been so profoundly felt.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2012

“this Czech version is special, imbued with passionate national feeling, yet never letting the emotion boil over...the intensity of the music-making is immediately projected, and the trickling streams, which are the source of the Vltava, have a delicacy almost of fantasy...The recording is vivid and full, but not sumptuous; yet this suits the powerful impulse of Kubelik's overall view” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

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Supraphon - 1112082

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Smetana: Má Vlast

Smetana: Má Vlast


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Supraphon - 1119812

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Smetana: Má Vlast

Smetana: Má Vlast


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Supraphon - SU19862

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Smetana: Má Vlast

Smetana: Má Vlast


Prague Philharmonic, Jakub Hrůša

The most recent Supraphon recording of My Country dates back to the halcyon days of 1990. In the first year of freedom, at the euphoric opening concert of the Prague Spring festival the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by the 76-year-old Rafael Kubelík, who had just returned from exile. Twenty years on, the festival entrusted this honourable task to the 28-year-old conductor Jakub Hruša, who emulated the legendary Václav Neumann in becoming the youngest conductor in history to open the festival.

Hruša, while respecting the time-honoured interpretational tradition, primarily focused on faithful and well-considered reading of the score. Owing to the legendary vigour, musical fidelity and sheer engagement of the Prague Philharmonia, those in attendance at Prague’s Rudolfinum were witness to a truly remarkable and inspired performance of this symbol of Czech music. The more chamber-like configuration lets the fine planes ring out in an unusually transparent sound, so that the water nymphs really are water nymphs... By contrast, the extreme drama of Šárka resounds with a surprising power. As evidenced by the rapturous response to the concert, the conductor certainly succeeded in achieving his goal – retelling My Country in a manner that would make the audience feel as though they were hearing it for the first time.

“Hruša builds towards that climax intelligently, and his shaping is always utterly natural, while in both Vltava and From Bohemia's Woods and Fields he...exploit[s] the transparency of the lighter body of strings to highlight much telling detail.” The Guardian, 14th October 2010 ***

“Part bucolic, part combative, always nationalistic, Bedrich Smetana’s Má Vlast cycle of symphonic poems needs Czech musicians to make the music fuse and fly. Captured live in concert, Hrusa’s Prague Philharmonia glory as much in the clamorous battle scenes as in the rippling waters of Vltava, the best-known segment.” The Times, 13th November 2010 ****

“Hrůša derides anything resembling pomposity in Má vlast interpretation, preferring instead relatively swift tempi (swifter sometimes than suggested in the score), transparent textures and colourfully varied dynamics.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2011

“The trump card of this [performance], given at last year's Prague Spring Festival, is its superlative but modest orchestral line-up, showing you don't need big symphonic forces for the music's non-stop inspiration to make its mark. Hrůša's bombast-free conducting secures playing of poised grace besides vividness and panache” Classic FM Magazine, January 2011 *****

“[Hrusa] shows a most impressive grasp of the work's architecture...[He] has a fine sense of line and his players phrase most lyrically...sensitive, purposeful and obviously warm-hearted - all very welcome qualities in this music” International Record Review, January 2011

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Supraphon - SU40322

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