Magazine article Gramophone

Assorted Czech Recordings of Martinu's Successor Kalabis

Magazine article Gramophone

Assorted Czech Recordings of Martinu's Successor Kalabis

Article excerpt

Kalabis (R) (GC) (GP)

Concerto for Bassoon and Wind Instruments, Op 61 (a). Trumpet Concerto, 'Le tambour de villevieille', Op 36 (b). Violin Concertos--No 1, Op 17 (c); No 2, Op49 (d). Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, Op 64 (e). Harpsichord Concerto, Op 42 (f). Concerto for Large Orchestra, Op 25 (g). Symphonic Variations, Op 24 (h). Symphonies-No 2, 'Sinfonia pacis', Op18 (i); No 3, Op33 (j)

(a) Jiri Formacek bn (b) Miroslav Kejmar tpt (c) Petr Skvor, (d) Josef Suk vns (e) Milan Langer pf (f) Zuzana Ruzickova hpd (a) Czech Philharmonic Wind Ensemble / Milos Formacek; (dghij) Czech Philharmonic Orchestra / (j) Jiri Belohlavek, (i) Zdenek Kosler, (h) Vaclav Neumann, (d) Wolfgang Sawallisch, (g) Ladislav Slovak; (f) Prague Chamber Orchestra / Viktor Kalabis; (b) Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra / Milos Konvalinka; (ce) Prague Symphony Orchestra / (c) Viktor Kalabis, (e) Tomas Koutnik

Supraphon Archiv (S) (3) SU4109-2 (3h 33' * DDD) From Supraphon, Panton and Czech Radio originals

Sadly, even the name, let alone the music, of Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006) will be unknown to most readers, yet he was arguably the most important Czech composer in the period following the death of Martinu. Ales Brezina avers 'his beginnings ... were deeply influenced by people like Stravinsky and Hindemith, Honegger and Bartok-and Martinu of course'. Even more important is his role as one of the expressive consciences of post-war Czechia; he never joined the Communist Party and while he did not retreat into external exile, Kalabis wrote the music that he needed to write, not what the cultural apparatchiks of Prague wanted. His life and music prompted attacks and harassment from officialdom, not least for the pacific, universalist sentiments behind the compelling Second Symphony, Sinfonia pacis (1959-61; expressive of the Cold War tensions leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis), or marrying a Holocaust survivor--the harpsichordist Zuzana Ruzickova--in 1952 in a dark period of Czech history.

The present collection--collated from the archives of Supraphon, Panton and Czech Radio across four decades--is in many respects a sister collection to that issued by MSR in 2010 (MS1350). The Sinfonia pacis, like the Third (1970-71), has been available before fitfully as an import. A relatively early work betraying various stylistic influences, it showcases his skill in transforming them (as in the vividly freewheeling scherzo, a real crowd pleaser, and glowing finale), as do the subtle Symphonic Variations (1964) and Concerto for Large Orchestra (1965-66). …

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