HELLO STAGE BLOG

The DEF of Music…

In a rather back-to-front way in previous blogs I first expounded on Bruckner (his Fifth Symphony with Skrowaczewski), then two separate contemporary composers with the surname Adams and also introduced my ideas about context being important in music. So I’m now returning to the alphabet for a further digression on the next three letters…

‘D’ is for both Dvořák and Dalibor. In a discussion about Czech operas a friend admitted that he found he always gets the operas of Dvořák and Smetana muddled up, so I went to the reference shelf to quote from Amanda Holden’s The New Penguin Opera Guide and read out the operas of each. Dvořák’s first was Alfred – yes, about the early English king Alfred and his burning of the cakes – of which I had never heard.

Of course Dalibor is by Smetana, and also has a new recording – again recorded live this last May – courtesy of Jiři Bĕlohlávek and his BBC Symphony forces from London’s Barbican (ONYX 4158). It’s one of those recordings that I mentioned in my first blog – I’m part of it, as I was there – so it’s great to hear again in all its late- medieval splendour.

As it happens, ‘D’ could also stand for David, as in French composer Félicien David, whose opera Herculanum is also new on CD, as the latest in that wonderful series, handsomely packaged in a slim hard-back book, by Palazzetto Bru Zane.

My curiosity aroused, I later checked online and found that Alfred has recently been recorded – at the 2014 Prague Spring Festival, with Heiko Mathias Förster marshalling the forces of the Prague Radio Symphony and the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno. So I’m now eagerly awaiting its arrival to find out what Dvořák early operatic style is like – even if I’ll need to wear sun specks to cope with the lurid pink cover (ArcoDiva UP 0140-2 612; in German – arcodiva.cz).

Entry of the Gladiators, but one of those military composers (Czech as it happens, would you believe it?!) who left some 250 works with opus numbers, even though he died – in 1916 – at the age of 44.

It’s no surprise that canny Neeme Järvi, back with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with whom I first heard him, has come up with A Festival of Fučík (CHANDOS 5158) in readiness for the composer’s centenary next year. It’s pure orchestral joy, begging the question why Fučík isn’t heard more – especially Der alte Brummbär (The Old Grumbler) for bassoon and orchestra, which is one of the few solo bassoon pieces I myself have performed live (but that’s another story).

Ah, there we go – out of words already and still missing an ‘E’! Par for the course and, as ever…

Opéra français(Ediciones Singulares) , now up to its tenth opera, uncovers real rarities in often world-première recordings with substantial essays and background information as well as libretto and English translation. This latest is in the enthusiastic hands of Hervé Niquet, with the Brussels Philharmonic and Flemish Radio Choir, as well as a cast headed by Véronique Gens and Edgaras Montvidas. From the blurb it’s a Christians-versus- Barbarians type of thing, so even earlier historically than the two Czech operas already mentioned. Once again it’s yet to arrive through my letter box, so I’ll have to let you know what I think of it later.

But I can rave about my choice to represent the letter F – Julius Fučík – best known for a march adopted for the circus – More anon.

Nick Breckenfield

Nick Breckenfield has worked in and around the classical music industry over the last 25 years - at venues, agencies and as a programme note writer and marketeer. He was Classical Music editor for Whatsonwhen for 13 years, and current clients include the Borletti-Buitoni Trust.
Author: Nick Breckenfield
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