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Jaroslav Stranavsky - MUSIC-MASTER

reviews / kritiky

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) Hugh the Drover: Horsehoofs, horsehoofs [4:30]
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Hugh the Drover: Horsehoofs, horsehoofs [4:30]

Grammy nominee

CD with Jacque Trussel, Tenor USA

CD with Jacque Trussel, Tenor USA
Autor: wb


Grammy nominee for Best Classical Vocal Performance

Jacque Trussel, Tenor: Sounds & Sweet Airs: Scenes & Arias for Tenor

Grammy nominee for Best Classical Vocal Performance, 2001
Produced by: Bonnie Hamilton

Engineered by: Jaroslav Stranavsky Music Master Slovakia
Recorded September 22-26, 1997 at the Janácek Cultural Center, Havivov, Czech Republic


S. Bortkiewic: Piano Concerto No. 2
S. Bortkiewic: Piano Concerto No. 2
Stefan Doniga Piano

CD Sergei Bortkiewicz

CD Sergei Bortkiewcz

CD Sergei Bortkiewcz
Autor: JS

CD Sergei Bortkiewcz

CD Sergei Bortkiewcz
Autor: JS




Sergei BORTKIEWICZ (1877-1952)
Piano Concerto No. 2 (left-hand only) op. 28 (1923) [29:17]
Piano Concerto No. 3 Per aspera ad astra op. 32 (1926) [29:06]
Stefan Doniga (piano)
Czech Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra/David Porcelijn

Engineered by: Jaroslav Stranavsky Music Master Slovakia
rec. Concert Hall of the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, Ostrava, 9-13 June 2008. DDD


Review in the American Record Guide (July/August 2009)

.. Outstanding recording ..
.. it's worth every penny ..
.. We're greatly indebted to the Netherlands Music Institute for this most welcome world premiere recording ..
.. I agree wholeheartedly this is a major release for all lovers of Russian Music ..
.. a rich billowing sound beautifully captured by the expert - Jaroslav Stranavsky Music Master Slovakia - engineering team ...

Review in Gramophone (May 2009)

.. Classy performances ...
.. The recorded sound and performances from all concerned are in the Hyperion Romantic Piano series class ..
.. Stefan Doniga drives the music onward fearlessly and makes the best possible case for both works ..

Review by Malcolm Henbury Ballan

(author of the sleeve notes of Hyperion's recording of the two Bortkiewicz Symphonies (January 2009)

´I have been waiting many years for a definitive recording of these two works [as have many other people from correspondence I've received over the years] - and I was not disappointed when this CD was released in January 2009.

Piano Concerto No. 2 was originally written for Paul Wittgenstein, with the original score languishing for many years within the Wittgenstein estate after his death. We tend to remember a number of other concertos he commissioned -Ravel, Prokofiev, Strauss and Britten- yet strangely despite many performances of the Bortkiewicz concerto across Europe, it almost disappeared into oblivion until very recently. This concerto is in one movement with a range of contrasting sections that unit together as a cohesive whole. It is full of scintillating melodies and exquisite piano work, and the composer achieves a beautiful and delicate balance between the piano and the orchestra [something Wittgenstein moaned about incessantly about the other concertos written for him]. From the opening Allegro Drammatico, you know you are in safe but exciting hands under David Porcelijn. The orchestral introduction acts almost as a prelude until the piano enters, immediately grabbing your attention with its powerful opening theme and what a wonderful melody it is, full of Russian pathos and passion. The composer draws and develops this theme, drawing you in with its beguiling beauty and energy. Then through series of secondery themes and development, the concerto unfolds like a rhapsody, through a series of unfolding segments that run together seamlessly until we return to the opening dramatic theme now performed by the pianist in octaves; a recapulation of previous themes then draws us on to its resounding conclusion. This is a beautiful concerto and more surprising that it has taken so long to be recorded. Listening to the pianist -a very talented Stefan Doniga- it is astounding to think that this concerto is for one hand that balances perfectly with the full orchestra.

The Piano Concerto No. 3 'Per aspera ad astra' was again conceived as a one movement work of various contrasting sections that seem to evolve out of each other; from the dark opening motif to its resounding, bright and up-lifting climax to the end of the work. Although the composer calls for technical brillance and virtuosity from the piano - both the piano and orchestra seem to work together collectively to create an organic whole ... one almost being existent upon the other. The concerto is also unusual in that it calls for an organ within the score that lends to it a deeper resonance as well as positive affirmation at the exuberant ending - piano, orchestra and organ welded together with chiming bells to truly lift one's spirit to the stars.

My hat's off to Stefan Doniga, David Porcelijn and the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra - this is a sumptuous recording, full of beauty and drawing out both the light and touches of darkness from the scores. I adored both works and highly recommended to all those who love their piano concertos in a lush, romantic vein. Excellent, a joy to hear.

Malcolm Henbury Ballan.´


Remembrance Overture; Perzeus Overture; Symphony No. 2 in A-flat major
Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra

Ivo Venkov

Phaedra- 92067(CD)
No Reference Recording




What great fun this music is. Jef van Hoof (1886-1959) writes crisp, colorful, tuneful music that has a typically Franco/Belgian elegance, wit, and sentiment. His style might be described as a kind of mixture of Martinu, Sibelius (in the slow movement of the symphony), and Roussel, though the result is quite individual. The Remembrance Overture dates from 1917, and while intended as a memorial to the First World War, its perky military fanfares come off as humorously ironic rather than bitter or menacing. Perzeus, from 1908, actually is the most harmonically acerbic piece here, contrasting a spiky opening with a positively luscious second theme.
At only 24 minutes, the symphony packs a good bit of expressive range into a very short space. Although written in 1941, it's very much of a piece with the other works on the program. The pastoral opening is very memorable, the scherzo brilliant and rambunctious, the slow movement curiously disturbing. In all three works the Ostrava orchestra plays very well, and Ivo Venkov directs with confidence and the necessary gusto to project this often ebullient music most effectively. Fine sonics too. There's quite a bit of van Hoof's music available now, including all six of his symphonies (the last one left incomplete at his death). He's worth getting to know.
--David Hurwitz


Divertimento for orchestra; Suite symphonique; The Pressburg Manifest (ballet suite); Sinfonietta for large orchestra; Impressioni rapsodiche
Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra

David Porcelijn

Engineered by: Jaroslav Stranavsky Music Master Slovakia

CPO- 777 574-2(CD)
No Reference Recording




Ludovit Rajter (1906-2000) will be best known to CD collectors as one of those budget-label conductors who turned up from time to time at the head of various not terribly attractive-sounding Eastern European orchestras, conducting standard repertoire. He also was a composer, and quite a good one--not terribly adventurous, perhaps, but that's only to be expected given the circumstances of his life and work. His music basically sounds like Bartók, but with some of the rough edges rubbed off; add a dash of Miklós Rósza and you'll have a pretty clear sense of what to expect.

The works on display here show a remarkably consistent level of quality, and range from the early Divertimento of 1932 to the Impressioni of 1995. There is some evolution in language: the late pieces are a touch more dissonant in style, more concerned with coloristic devices, but they are clearly the work of the same composer. As usual, David Porcelijn is a most reliable guide to the unfamiliar, and he gets very good results from his orchestra. This is an idiom that clearly suits the players, and the engineering is also natural and flattering to the participants. Very enjoyable.

--David Hurwitz


Symphonies Nos. 1-6
Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra

Theodore Kuchar

Engineered by: Jaroslav Stranavsky Music Master Slovakia

Brilliant Classics- 92885(CD)
Reference Recording - Schonwandt (dacapo)



Theodore Kuchar leads what is without question the most exciting complete Nielsen symphony cycle available, making this the set to get for Nielsen newcomers. He doesn't put a foot wrong in any of these symphonies, and it's rather amazing to hear how well he handles passages where so many conductors come to grief. For example, the finale of the Second Symphony has tremendous physicality at an aptly swift tempo. So often it's taken way too slowly. Kuchar gets all the tempo relationships right in the tricky finale of the Fourth as well, and he drives the Fifth home with such exultant power that for once that second movement doesn't sound like an anticlimax, coming as it does after perhaps the most inspired 20 minutes of music that Nielsen ever penned. Kuchar also isn't at all fazed by the weirdness of the Sixth, its concluding Theme and Variations in particular. Here's a case where simply playing what's written as characterfully as possible really does produce the desired wacky effect far better than any sort of poking and prodding. You simply won't hear a finer performance anywhere. Kuchar is equally sensitive to Nielsen's ear for color--those special moments of startling sonic innovation. I'm thinking of the trumpet tremolos before the grand waltz in the Espansiva's opening movement, or the timpani roll with brushes in the slow movement of the Second.
However, despite the all-around interpretive excellence, it has to be admitted that the orchestra is not quite in the first class, at least as compared to those of San Francisco (Blomstedt/Decca) or Denmark (Schonwandt/dacapo). Don't get me wrong: they play spectacularly well, all things considered. The strings take Nielsen's ungrateful passagework in stride, rhythms are firm, and the ensemble is excellently balanced. Tricky episodes such as the tuba and woodwind exchanges in the finale of the Fifth come off splendidly. Still, there's a certain want of sheer amplitude in the biggest climaxes, such as the conclusion of the Fourth Symphony (after a fabulous timpani duel), or the snare drum-led battle in the first movement of the Fifth. The truth is, even here Kuchar is as good or better than most of the competition, but by the same token, and however minor this point is in the grand scheme of things, the above observations are real and something that Nielsen fans are likely to notice.
This doesn't mean you should hesitate for a minute in buying this inexpensive set, which also is very naturally and vibrantly recorded. What it does mean is that this joins the two other cycles just mentioned (and Rozhdestvensky's as well on Chandos) among the top picks, rather than sweeping the board. And if I sound just a touch frustrated, it's only because Kuchar's conducting really does sweep the board. Given a choice of who I would likely listen to in this music on any given day, Kuchar is the man, and I suspect that you'll agree. He's that good.
--David Hurwitz


Henk Badings; Symphonies Nos. 2, 7 "Louisville Symphony", & 12 "Symphonic Sound-Shapes"
Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra

David Porcelijn

Engineered by: Jaroslav Stranavsky Music Master Slovakia

CPO - 777 272-2(CD)
No Reference Recording

On evidence here, Henk Badings (1907-87) was a composer of considerable substance. His Second Symphony, in three movements, has the feel of Honegger/Hindemith in its purposeful seriousness and compact form. The frequent use of march-rhythms points to the music's inter-War-period origins and highlights the work's affinity with pieces such as Honegger's Third Symphony, Vaughan Williams' Fourth, and Walton's First. The Seventh Symphony, commissioned by Robert Whitney and his Louisville orchestra in 1954, is a flat-out masterpiece. Here the French influence is even stronger, particularly in the theme for muted trumpet in the first movement. Markedly less grim than the Second Symphony, the music manages to be tonal but also remarkably fresh in its harmonic language, and its four short movements are gorgeously scored.
The Twelfth Symphony, in one movement, incorporates aleatoric (that is, "chance") elements, but as in Lutoslawski it does so within a finely judged structure containing ideas of striking color and, yes, melodic beauty. I certainly hope that this disc is the first in a complete cycle, for Badings is a composer whose music really deserves to be revived. David Porcelijn leads remarkably confident performances of this challenging music, and the orchestra, aside from some understandably stressed moments in the trumpets, responds with vigor and sensitivity. CPO's sonics, typically, are rich and solid. If you want to hear some really good contemporary orchestral music, treat yourself to these three symphonies without delay. [12/21/2007]
--David Hurwitz


Symphony in C major; Symphony in F major; Symphony in B-flat major
Musica Aeterna Bratislava

Peter Zajícek

Engineered by: Jaroslav Stranavsky Music Master Slovakia

Naxos - 8.554764(CD)
No Reference Recording


t's hard to imagine why Naxos waited so long to issue this outstanding disc. The jewel case data states that the recording was made in January 1992, and with so little by Johannes Sperger (1750-1812) in the current catalogs, such elegant performances of three of his symphonies undoubtedly would have created a favorable impression. As it is, this is yet another thoroughly worthy inclusion in the Naxos 18th Century Symphony survey. Presumably the vastly more expensive "Contemporaries of Mozart" series from Matthias Bamert and the London Mozart Players eventually will get around to Sperger as well. But for the present, these delectable authentic instrument performances by Musica Aeterna Bratislava should satisfy your curiosity if (like me) you're fascinated by the backroom boys of the classical epoch.

Known principally for his virtuosity as a double-bassist, Sperger wrote a number of concertos, some chamber-music, and completed some 45 symphonies as well, none of which have been commercially available on CD before now. Most of these works date from the years 1777-83, the period of Sperger's tenure as chamber musician to the musical establishment of Prince Joseph von Batthyányi in Pressburg. Appropriately, it's a group of performers from this same city--today known as Bratislava--that's heard to such convincing effect in these accounts of symphonies in C, F, and B-flat major, each of which are scored for strings and continuo alone. Polished, vigorous playing and a brightly-lit recording that's naturally balanced make this a desirable budget offering. Recommended.

--Michael Jameson



Ma Vlast; Triumph Symphony; Dances from The Bartered Bride, Faust Overture; Wallenstein's Camp; Richard III; Harkon Jarl; Prague Carnival; others
Theodore Kuchar

Engineered by: Jaroslav Stranavsky Music Master Slovakia

Brilliant Classics- (CD)
Reference Recording - Ma Vlast: Ancerl (Supraphon); Kubelik (DG)


This three-disc set, billed as Smetana's complete orchestral works, isn't really complete, at least to the extent that there are a few other miscellaneous bits from operas besides The Bartered Bride that might have been included. Nevertheless, it is easily the best collection of its type, finer than Valek's on Supraphon both in terms of performance and sonics, and more complete as well. In addition to the individual works listed above, you also get a couple of occasional overtures, plus some very attractive dance music that Smetana wrote for various functions.

All of the performances are very good. Particularly noteworthy is the Triumph Symphony, an early but substantial piece that has long been ignored because it was written in homage to the Austrian nobility and contains Haydn's Emperor's Hymn in three of its movements. Theodore Kuchar and his forces tackle Ma Vlast with plenty of enthusiasm and vigor; indeed, from Sarka onward this is one of the best versions available. Tabor and Blanik, especially, have seldom sounded more spontaneous and less repetitious. The three "Swedish" tone poems are also full of the necessary Romantic blood and thunder in these performances, while the Bartered Bride excerpts (terrific Dance of the Comedians) truly sparkle.

The engineering is consistently good throughout--a bit lacking in bass, perhaps, but naturally balanced. The orchestra plays quite well--this is mostly familiar music, after all--but more significantly the horns and other brass retain their bright, Slavic timbre without turning thin and wobbly. At the price, this set will be very hard to beat, even if everyone will have their own favorite version of Ma Vlast from one of the work's "heavy hitters" (Ancerl, Kubelik, Talich, Mackerras, etc).

--David Hurwitz

Symphony No. 3 "Celestial"; Cello Concerto; Quileute Overture; Berry's Veery Thrush with Cedars; Mariners Fanfare
Jirí Hanousek, Gabriel Faur (cello)

Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra
Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra

Theodure Kuchar
Joel Eric Suben

Engineered by: Jaroslav Stranavsky Music Master Slovakia

Centaur- 2898(CD)


Charles Roland Berry's Symphony No. 3 opens in an atmosphere not dissimilar to the music of Alan Hovhaness--the shimmering textures, meditative mood, and most of all the modal writing. Berry cultivates an Eastern aesthetic that eschews motivic development and dramatic episodes for the beauties of the moment. This works quite well in the first movement, but about halfway through the second it poses a problem for Westernized ears that may find the repetitiveness daunting. While the sound of Berry's music, with its constantly shifting timbres, is consistently appealing, the thematic element becomes tiresome after a time. Philip Glass has been praised and damned for his endlessly repeating arpeggios, but at least he employs some interesting harmonic progressions as a backdrop. Berry on the other hand sticks stubbornly to a single mode--in a single key.

The same pretty much goes for the Cello Concerto, although Berry's solo writing is both challenging and stimulating and is masterfully rendered by Jirí Hanousek. Gabriel Faur takes the solo lead in Quileute Overture for cello and orchestra. Berry's Veery Thrush with Cedars is similar in style, while the brief Mariners Fanfare is energetic and captivating throughout. Theodore Kuchar leads first-rate performances with the Janácek Philharmonic in all but Quileute, for which Joel Eric Suben and the Moravian Philharmonic do the honors. The recordings are spacious and well detailed. So, if you're inclined to let your music just "be", you'll find this disc interesting. Others might wish they'd brought their lunch.

--Victor Carr Jr




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