Current reviews, listed in the order of their publication date, with the latest review on the top of the page. For reviews by year, follow the menu in the left column.
The vibrant music of Vitezslava Kapralova
There is little doubt that Vitezslava Kapralova's early death at the age of 25 robbed the musical world of a potent force. Her work list only constitutes around 50 pieces,
but the more I hear the more I want to hear, and the present disc, recorded at the Kapralova Festival in Michigan, fits the bill very nicely. [. . .]
The Christmas Prelude is a two-minute explosion of bustling excitement. Kapralova's music is sometimes labeled “Stravinskian”; small wonder with, in this performance, the
clear Petrushka vibe of the opening. [. . . ]
Great though it is to have that fun, one of the meatier pieces follows, the Military Sinfonietta. The terrain here is more varied, and massively inventive. Kapralova’s writing
is buoyant, expert and utterly remarkable, and the performance by the University of Michigan Symphony under Kenneth Kiesler is certainly enthusiastic, and moves with quixotic
reflexes to honour the composer’s way of flitting rapidly from one emotion to the next.
The ecstatic writing of Smutný vecer (Sad Evening, c. 1936) whether in the luminosity of the woodwind chords or the glowing climax really seems to refer to the music of Alexander
Zemlinsky. The next song, Sbohem a Sátecek (Waving farewell, 1938) is fragrantly scored and poignant. In both songs, Nicholas Phan is a brilliant soloist. [ . . . ]
Nice to have Kapralova’s op. 1 here, a Suite en miniature (1935), four very short movements that include a delicate Lullaby full of pastoral woodwind pipings.
The Piano Concerto, Kapralova’s first large-scale orchestral work (1935), is definitely late Romantic in style but has her own accent; the piano’s glissando at the end of
the first movement speaks of an irrepressible spirit. The happy side of [her] personality certainly comes across in the helter-skelter finale, whose opening transforms to a
meltingly beautiful passage including solo violin, rounding off a fabulous disc. Taiwanese pianist Amy I-Lin Cheng is the brilliant soloist, while Kenneth Kiesler here,
as throughout the disc, leads his forces with conviction and accuracy.
From a review by Colin Clarke for Classical Explorer, July 17, 2021
Vitezslava Kapralova: Waving Farewell. Naxos 8.574144
Discovery, for me, though, is 'Sbohem a satecek' by the short-lived and clearly very talented Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-40): Nicholas Phan gives a wonderfully impassioned performance that demands further exploration of the composer.
James Joly for the Gramophone's Listening Room, July 1, 2021.
Vitezslava Kapralova’s bruisende muziek is toegankelijk maar geraffineerd. Naxos 8.574144
Op dit album, opgenomen tijdens een festival geheel gewijd aan haar, betuigen Kenneth Kiesler en zijn University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra eer aan Kaprálová’s explosieve optimisme.
Haar bruisende muziek is toegankelijk maar geraffineerd, vergelijkbaar met die van Aaron Copland. Met het orkestpalet kon ze kennelijk alles. In de eclatante Militaire sinfonietta gooit ze met dikke kleurspatten,
haar Suite en miniature is vol verrukkelijke nuances. Helaas heeft Kaprálová slechts één pianoconcert kunnen voltooien, maar wat is het een virtuoos stuk, gedreven door ontembare stootkracht.
Review by Jenny Camilleri for deVolkskrant, July 1, 2021.
LA MUSE OUBLIÉE. Antonio Oyarzabal, piano, IBS 52021 (1 CD).
La variedad de nombres, estilos, procedencias y épocas podía resultar un escollo para la unidad del CD, pero la selección es realmente magnífica y las obras elegidas, de gran altura. Sin duda el trabajo de investigación previo de este pianista has sido profundo y de gran calidad. . . . En cuanto a la ejecución de Oyarzabal, lo primero que llama la atención es una elegancia exquisita que le permite transitar del Barroco de Jacquet de la Guerre a la vanguardia de Ruth Crawford Seeger con una gracia natural y sin la menor dificultad aparento.
From a review by Ana García Urcola for Scherzo, July 2021.
Vitezslava Kapralova: Waving Farewell. Naxos 8.574144
It’s impossible to listen to this disc without speculating about what this prolific Czech composer would have gone on to achieve had she survived beyond her 26th birthday,
but all the music here speaks of a bold, original voice that was already considerably developed: the Military Sinfonietta blends Stravinsky-ish spikiness with a certain
cinematic quality that put me in mind of Korngold, whilst the orchestral songs sound like Berg with a twist.
Katherine Cooper, Presto Editor's Choice, June 2021
Nigel Simeone reviews new releases of orchestral music by Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Louise Farrenc and Vitezslava Kapralova.
Andrew McGregor: Such a short life. Is it already a well developed voice?
Nigel Simeone: That’s the marvelous thing, it is! Looking at the program book of the 1938 ISCM Festival in London, where the Military Sinfonietta was conducted by her, in fact, it was the first piece of the opening concert, and it says in there that she had all sorts of plans to go back to Prague and study with Alois Haba which might have meant that her music would have taken a very different direction, but the main influence that we hear on there is that of Martinu, really, . . . but it doesn’t in the slightest sound that she was imitating anybody else at all, that is a really original voice here, a bit like Lili Boulanger, the same kind of instant sense of intensiveness and originality.
Andrew McGregor: Now we got the Michigan University Symhony Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Kiesler. It is obviously not the Chicago or Boston Symphony orchestras, how well do they equip themselves in Kapralova’s music?
Nigel Simeone: Amazingly well! I mean that they do not remotely sound like a university orchestra, even a good one, and they are terrific.
Just a word about why it is called Military Sinfonietta. She said that it was very much a kind of defensive military—essentially, it is a Patriotic sinfonietta, . . . it’s not a warlike thing. It’s an extraordinary, single movement piece, it has moments of repose but essentially it’s pretty animated, very exciting, and a wonderful demonstration what an absolutely staggering talent Kapralova was.
BBC Record Review. BBC Radio 3, June 26, 2021.
Vitezslava Kapralova: Waving Farewell. Naxos 8.574144
The Naxos release is a wonderful carnival of orchestral music by Czech composer–conductor Vita Kaprálová,
performed by the first rate University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Kenneth Kiesler.
The disc opens with a delightful orchestral miniature full of instrumental colours, entitled Prélude de Noël. It was written for Christmas Day of
1939 by Kaprálová in exile as a present to her parents back home.
The following track is the composer’s trademark composition — the Military Sinfonietta that brought her international fame at the opening night
of the 16th ISCM Festival in London in 1938 (the performance by
the BBC Orchestra under the baton of the composer was shortwaved to the United States where it was re-broadcast by CBS, and received a most
favorable review in Time magazine).
The work was recorded several times before but here the performance is particularly strong,
with the orchestra never loosing momentum and pacing to the finale of an almost
Hollywood sound (in the best Hollywood tradition, I might add). The heart of the disc belongs to Kaprálová’s
two orchestral songs: the first, Sad Evening,
appearing on record for the first time, is performed with an utmost sensitivity; the operatic quality of the second, Waving Farewell,
becomes even more prominent in Nicholas Phan’s performance. The songs are followed by a fittingly somber,
almost ominous mood of Praeludium, the first movement of the four-movement Suite en miniature—Kaprálová’s first opus she composed at sixteen and orchestrated at twenty.
The mood of the suite brightens up with the two next movements and
ends joyfully with dance rhythms of the Menuetto movement. The disc closes with Amy I-Lin Cheng’s performance of Kaprálová’s late romantic
Piano Concerto in D Minor, the composer’s graduation work
which delighted audiences at its premiere in 1935 and continues to do so ever since. A disc to have!
Reviewed by Karel Dragoun for kapralova.org, June 25, 2021.
VITEZSLAVA KAPRALOVA – WAVING FAREWELL. NICHOLAS PHAN, tenor AMY I-LIN CHENG, piano, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN S O,
KENNETH KIESLER, conductor, NAXOS 8.574144 58’57. It is a tragedy that Vitezslava Kapralova died so young. The music here is superb.
Reaching only the age of 25 what more might she have gone on to achieve? The most substantial works here
are Vojenska symfonieta (‘Military Sinfonietta’) and Piano Concerto in D minor, Op 7.
Well worth investigating.
larkreviews.co.uk, June 17, 2021.
Lebrecht Listens. Reviving Europe's Forgotten Female Composer.
The mystery and tragedy of [Kapralova's] existence has been explored in a couple of novels, but her psychology remains an enigma and her music
is hard to categorise. At first impression it falls midway between Leos Janacek – who was her father's teacher – and Bohuslav Martinu,
who was her lover; yet first impressions are misleading and there is much in this new compilation to indicate that Kapralova's voice was very much
her own. [ . . .] A piano concerto in D minor opens with what she prescribes as an allegro entusiastico, although it never sounds
quite like that. The solo line is muted and contemplative to the point of introspection; late Rachmaninov meets young Messiaen. [. . .]
Kapralova was a talent of rare eloquence and self-possession, too good to remain lost in the mists of time.
From a review by Norman Lebrecht for Ludwig van Daily, Toronto edition, June 11, 2021.
KAPRÁLOVÁ, V.: Waving Farewell / Suite en Miniature /
Piano Concerto (Phan, Amy I-Lin Cheng, University of Michigan Symphony, Kiesler), Naxos 8.574144
Nicholas Phan has a suitably liquid tenor voice for his two solos, and the conductor, Kenneth Kiesler, extracts totally committed performances in a high impact recording. Highly recommended.
From a review by David Denton for David's Review Corner, June 2021.
KAPRÁLOVÁ: Prelude de Noel. Military Sinfonietta. Sad Evening. Waving Farewell. Suite en Miniature, Op. 1. Piano Concerto /
Nicholas Phan, ten.; Amy I-Len Cheng, pno; University of Michigan Symphony Orch.; Kenneth Kiesler, cond / Naxos 8.574144.
Sad Evening is a song that was only discovered in 2006, receiving its premiere at the University of Michigan’s Kapralova Festival in 2015.
This is a very harmonically advanced piece, with only the singer’s line remaining resolutely tonal and lyrical. The constantly shifting
harmonies remind one of Schoenberg’s Erwartung or Gurre-Lieder, which tells us that she had an open ear to all the new musical changes of
her time. . . . I was really struck by the originality and creativity of her Suite en Miniature, a piece that again combined elements of
French music with early Schoenberg, the latter in the “Praeludium” which, built around mysterious lead lines, constantly shifting
harmonies and string tremolos, is reminiscent of that composer’s Verklarte Nacht. . . .
From a review by Lynn Rene Bayley for Art Music Lounge, June 10, 2021
La muse oubliee. Piano works by Beach, Smyth, C. Schumann, L. Boulanger et al. Antonio Oyarzabal (piano). IBS Classical IBS52021.
There's no forgetting Oyarzabal's enthralling performance, or indeed his sublime programme of piano works by women composers from Fanny Mendelssohn to Ruth Crawford Seeger. What a treat. Five stars.
From a review for BBC Music Magazine 2021/6.
Vitezslava Kaprálová, Nadia Boulanger, Lili Boulanger u.a. Frauenstimmen. Anna Fortova (Violoncello), Kathrin Schmidlin (Klavier).
[...] Ähnlich jung verstarb Vitezslava Kaprálová (1915–1940). Mit den Worten „Ich will es den Männern zeigen“ wird sie zitiert, und die energische Geste, mit der ihr Ritornell op. 25 beginnt, mutet an wie ein in Musik gegossener Ausdruck dieses Vorsatzes. [...]
Der schwerblütige Ton der Bosmans-Sonate, Kaprálovás schneidiger, Martinu-naher Neoklassizismus, Nadia Boulangers Brillanz, die Subtilität der Komposition Haenslers: Alles gelingt in Perfektion, alles ist
getragen vom spürbaren Engagement der beiden Partnerinnen für zu Unrecht verdrängte Frauenstimmen. Ein Sonderlob hat sich Kathrin Schmidlin „verdient“, für die ebenso einfühlsam wie perlend vorgetragenen
Solostücke von Lili Boulanger und Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel.
From a review by Gerhard Anders for das Orchester no. 6 (June 2021): 73.
La Muse Oubliee (IBS Classical).
In La Muse Oubliee, the Spanish born, UK-based pianist Antonio Oyarzabal challenges the assumption that
the female muse is an inspirer rather than creator. [...] The result is a musically intriguing and beautifully balanced recital. [...]
Preludes by Lucija Garuta and Vitezslava Kapralova both leave you wanting to hear more...
From a review printed in Guardian (Guardian Classical), c. May 9, 2021.
Charmes. Songs by Viardot-Garcia, Schumann, Mahler & Kapralova. Olena Tokar, Igor Gryshyn; Orchid Classics.
The young Ukrainian certainly supplies charm aplenty on this terrific debut solo CD of music by female composers
(particularly in the florid lines of Pauline Viardot-Garcia’s dark fairytale Nixe Binsefuss), but her lyric soprano also has plenty of bite when required.
The five songs by Vítezslava Kaprálová (who died aged just 25) have an other-worldly, Debussy-ish opulence that testifies to a hugely distinctive voice cut down in its
Review by Katherine Cooper for Presto, May 2021
La Muse Oubliee. Antonio Oyarzabal (piano), rec. Auditorio Manuel de Falla, Granada, Spain 28-30 August 2020. IBS CLASSICAL IBS52021 [73:17]
This is a well-planned and executed survey of music by thirteen women composers. ... While some of the works presented
here are intended as polished miniatures, others offer something more substantial. Vitezslava Kaprslova’s April
Preludes certainly fit that second category. This was my first encounter with Kaprálová’s work but she was clearly
a massive talent. She died in France aged just twenty-five by which time she had written a significant body of work as
well as establishing herself as a conductor. Her music is available via several recordings and these Preludes are –
according to the liner – her most popular piano work. Her voice is quite individual but at the same time is a
compelling fusion of contemporary and Czech folk influences. ... The IBS Classical recording is good and unfussy.
The acoustic in the Auditorio Manuel de Falla is warm without being overly resonant. ... Where this disc succeeds
triumphantly is by showcasing a wide range of musical styles all of genuine quality. Perhaps this does risk becoming
a ‘box of delights’ – just as Lucija Garuta’s Prelude in E intrigues, you are already moving onto
Vitezslava Kapralova! A multi-disc option covering exactly these same composers in greater depth would be ideal.
It would be good to think we are reaching a point where the gender of a composer is irrelevant or at least not a
perceived novelty but in the meantime this disc is a wholly successful recital of high quality music, perceptively
From a review by Nick Barnard for Music Web International, April 28, 2021.
Duo Anna Fortova / Kathrin Schmidlin. Voix de femmes.
...Le Ritornello op. 25, sa derniere oeuvre, ici interpretee par le Duo Anna Fortova Kathrin Schmidlin, est une expression puissante et concentree d’une eloquence tragique.
Tout au long de sa jeune vie, Vitezslava Kapralova a su imposer son art et ses visions supres de ses pairs, revendiquant toujours son statut de femme compositrice et musicienne.
La richesse de son oeuvre, caracterisee par une imbrication de chromatismes postromantiques et d’harmonies impressionnistes, fait d’elle une figure majeure de la musique tcheque du XXe siecle.
From a review by Cecilia Viola for Scenes magazine, April 2021, pp. 30–31.
La Muse Oubliee. Antonio Oyarzabal, piano. Ibs Classical IBS52021.
Antonio Oyarzabal's piano recital La Muse Oubliee is distinguished by featuring 34 memorable miniatures. [...] The hugely talented Vitezslava Kapralova was admired by both the conductor
Rafael Kubelik and the pianist Rudolf Firkusny. [...] [E]ach the work of a true original, artistically valid, superbly played and recorded.
From a review by Robert Cowan for Gramophone, April 2021.
Charmes – Alma Mahler Werfel, Clara Schumann, Pauline Viardot Garcia, Vitezslava Kapralova; Olena Tokar, Igor Gryshyn; Orchid Classics.
...Finally on the disc, the least known composer. The Czech Vitezslava Kapralova was born in Brno, the daughter of a composer (father) and a singer (mother). She studied first at Brno Conservatory, and then with Vitezslav Novak, and Vaclav Talich in Prague, and Bohuslav Martinu (and possibly Nadia Boulanger) in Paris. Quite a pedigree. And she had quite a career, accumulating a body of work and conducting both the Czech Philharmonic and the BBC Orchestra. But she died at the age of 25, misdiagnosed so a double tragedy. Here is a very distinct, confident and fascinating voice. The songs date from the 1930s, but there is an independence of spirit here. We don’t hear many of the fashionable isms, no jazz, no neo-classicism. Instead there is a seductive chromaticism, a sense of impressionism and a definite way of creating an effect with just voice and piano, and two of the songs are to her own poetry.
Olena Tokar has a lovely fluid, bright-toned soprano voice which flows beautifully around these songs, and she makes each work stylish and apt in style. She is similarly fluent in the way she moves between languages. She is well supported by pianist Igor Gryshyn, who makes a fine partner throughout the disc.
From a review by Robert Hugill for planethugill.com, April 8, 2021.
The “Charmes” of Women Composers. Olena Tokar, Igor Gryshyn, Orchid Classics ORC100154
...We end with the songs of another musical genius, Vitezslava Kapralova, who died at the age of 25. Her songs are more modern, more Bartok-influenced, yet with a lyrical quality entirely her own. Oddly enough, it is in this music that Gryshyn sounds the most interesting as accompanist.
From a review by Lynn Rene Bayley for The Art Music Lounge, April 4, 2021.
Dilo Vitezslavy Kapralove dnes
Tematicky katalog skladeb Vitezslavy Kapralove a korespondence s nakladateli predstavuje nejuplnejsi a nejpodrobnejsi soupis dila Kapralove, v nemz nic neni opomenuto:
zachyceny a popsany jsou vsechny prameny – skici, autografy i autorizovane opisy až po vydani jejich definitivni verze. Vytvorit takovou publikaci vyzaduje leta soustredene
prace v mnoha badatelnach vcetne cestovani do mist, kde jsou materialy ulozeny, srovnavani, premysleni a hledani, vcetne mimoradne slozite a narocne korektury
misty dvojjazycneho textu. Je pak vic nez potesujici, mužeme-li konstatovat, ze nova publikace Karly Hartl splnuje vsechny tyto maximalisticke naroky beze zbytku.
From a review by Jindra Bartova for Klasika Plus, March 9, 2021.