Album Review

Bittova, Iva & Skampa Quartet – “Leos Janacek – Moravian Folk Poetry In Songs ” – [Supraphon]

loun   8/14/2007   A Library, CD

Five of the finest Czech string musicians gather to give interpretation to Leos Janacek’s song cycle inspired by the poetry, people, and music of Moravia (now the eastern part of the Czech Republic). Although Janacek passed on in 1928, this is not an homage so much as a part of the continued effort to understand and appreciate his work, which tells much of how this composer has enthralled the Czech people, although he is little known elsewhere.

The one thing that stands out immediately is the recording fidelity. While folk songs are often captured as field recordings, this disc was made by experienced musicians in one of the Republic’s finest studios. The voices and instruments ring out in their purity, and it becomes much easier to appreciate the music when tone, overtone, and color are all intact. The singers and playing alike are top notch. The excellent liner notes include all lyrics, with English translation. Many are simple seeming (“My Lover’s Horses”, “Rosemary”), but some seem to mean other than what they say (“Gnats’ Wedding”, “Game Warden”, “Carnation”), although that may be due simply to the gap between my experience and Moravian country life. Some of the songs are, or are derived from, real Moravian poetry and/or folk songs, the rest were composed by Janacek as inspired by such. All have that special quality of putting much meaning into few words.

Programming notes: Tracks are short (0:23 – 3:34) and sweet, violin and voice heavy, clear and simple, but not insubstantial. Strong folk sound.

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