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Kapralova. Songs. Dana Buresova (soprano), Timothy Cheek (piano), Magda Caslavova (flute), Herold Quartet. Supraphon SU3752-2. 70:13 min.
This disc must contain some of the most purely beautiful music I have heard in a long while. Viteslava Kapralova had a cruelly short life (she died age 25 of tuberculosis) and one is left wondering just what she might have achieved if she had been granted a longer stay. All credit to Supraphon for furnishing us with a beautifully-produced disc of some sensuous gems. This includes an interesting essay by the pianist here (Timothy Cheek) and full texts and multi-lingual translations.
Cheek suggests that Kapralova’s songs can stand alongside those by Wolf and Debussy and that they achieve ‘a true marriage of music and words’. Certainly Kapralova shows great sensitivity when it comes to choice of poets, for the very poems themselves are of the highest beauty. It takes a major talent to do poetry that already stands so strongly on its own justice, and that is exactly what Kapralova achieves.
Pupil of Vitezslav Novak, Zdenek Chalabala, Vaclav Talich, Charles Munch, Bohuslav Martinu and Nadia Boulanger (quite a roster!), Kapralova’s music remains individual, despite the occasional nod in the direction of Janacek (heard in some of the piano writing).
The disc presents the songs chronologically, over a mere eight-year span. Right from the first song, ‘Morning’, one is gripped. The melodic line refuses to act as one might expect it to, while being fully sensitised to words and accentuation. The piano part is lovely, free and almost improvised; the autumnal harmonies of the second song, ‘Orphaned’ reflect the beauty of the poem (by R. Bojko). Dana Buresova’s pristine-sounding voice comes across as a breath of fresh air (although taken as a whole it can become a little tiring to listen to).
The set of four songs under the title Sparks from Ashes (on texts by Bohdan Jelinek) seem to breathe a particularly Czech nostalgia. So the first, an evening song, finds Cheek in particular conjuring up a crepuscular atmosphere. The words of the third song, ‘Oh stay yet, my dear girl’, are positively heart-rending; more melancholy informs the final song of the set also. If Buresova can on occasion seems somewhat shrill in tone, she nevertheless brings out the inherent sadness effectively.
There seems too little gap on the disc between the Op. 5 songs and ‘January’ (‘Leden’), a miraculous song for voice, piano, flute, two violins and cello. This, surely, is the highlight of the disc, the delicate scoring, the inconclusive ending and an overall hypnotic element all combining to mesmeric effect. The poem (by Vitezslav Nezval) is a masterpiece in itself - this is surely a realisation of the text sent from Heaven.
It is astonishing to think that Opp. 10 and 12 are the works of a woman still in her early twenties, so assured is the writing. An apple from the lap, Op. 10, centres on impending doom. The pliant, Nature-ridden first song gives way to a tender and intimate lullaby. The final song is the most extrovert of the set and finds Kapralova using spicy harmonies to illustrate the ‘Spring Fair’.
Timothy Cheek evidently sees Kapralova’s Op. 12 as a masterpiece. Certainly this set of three songs under the title, 'Forever,' is extremely beautiful; the bare, spare textures of the second, ‘What is my grief’, appealed in particular to this reviewer. But perhaps Op. 14 (‘Waving farewell’) is more of a masterpiece. Hyper-Romantic in its sometimes extrovert piano writing and soaring vocal lines, its fairly extended duration (six minutes) means Kapralova is able to flex her compositional muscles. Again, Buresova can tend towards the shrill at climaxes, but to compensate she can be unbearably touching within piano.
The witty ‘Koleda’ (Carol) on a folk text is the wittiest piece of the collection, complete with animal impressions and a cheeky, chirpy accompaniment. It is logically paired with a Christmas Carol, where I for one would have difficulty sleeping through the shrill second verse!
Seconds, Op. 18, has a Bartokian simplicity to it and includes a ‘Posthumous Variation’, a piano interlude based on the folksong, ‘Taticku stary nas’ (‘Our old daddy’), Janacek-like in the insistence of its inner parts. The final song (‘New Year’s’) is interesting in its use of almost ecstatic harmonies.
If Janacek is a fairly frequent visitor to these works, it is Stravinsky that turns up in the final song of 'Sung into the distance,' Op. 22, where the piano part turns jagged.
The final offering of this recital is the predominantly resigned, ‘Dopis’ (‘Letter') of 1940, a song written five days after her wedding. The music lights up at the words ‘Pan Buh’ (‘Lord God’).
The music of Vitezslava Kapralova is well worth investigating and this is as good a place as any to start. The whole enterprise exudes professionalism and dedication.
Review by Colin Clarke for MusicWeb.uk, June 2004. Reprinted by permission.

Kapralova-A Hidden Gem. Vitezslava Kapralova: Songs. Supraphon.
These songs are gorgeous. Swooping melodies, glissandos in the piano, simple melodies in the soprano, and all tied together by a strong Czech sound and sensibility.
From a review by Genevieve Thiers for amazon.com, June 16, 2004.

Vitezslava Kapralova. 29 Mélodies.
[...] Les interprètes excellent à rendre ce monde empreint de douceur, de rêve, de culpabilité immanente, de révolte amoureuse. [...] Que les mélomanes séduits par ces mélodies intimistes visitent le site www.kapralova.org pour mieux connaître cette artiste d'exception qui n'a "dansé que bien peu d'etés".
From a review by Pierre Barbier for Diapason, May 2004.

Vitezslava Kapralova: Pisne.
Spolecnost Vitezslavy Kapralove je fenomenem, jehoz obdobu bychom v soucasnosti nachazeli v ceskem hudebnim zivote jen obtizne [..] zejmena z toho duvodu, ze jeji cinnost je az neuveritelne rozsahla a zamerena na nejruznejsi typy aktivit. [..] K temto aktivitam se radi a na cestnem miste mezi nimi stoji CD pisni Vitezslavy Kapralove, vydany v lonskem roce firmou Supraphon. Soustreduje temer kompletni pisnove dilo skladatelky, trva uctyhodnych 70 minut a jeste uctyhodnejsi je skutecnost, ze v drtive vetsine jde o dila realizovana z rukopisu ulozenych v Oddeleni dejin hudby Moravskeho zemskeho muzea v Brne. Takovy edicni pocin je primo prikladny!
Skladby jsou serazeny chronologicky, takze je mozno sledovat skladatelcin kompozicni vyvoj od ranych titulu (Dve pisne op.4, Jiskry z popele op. 5, Leden - vse z let 1932-33) pres cykly z poloviny tricatych let psane jeste v Praze (Jablko s klina, Navzdy, Sbohem a satecek) az po dila komponovana povetsinou v Parizi a representujici posledni tvurci obdobi skladatelky na sklonku 30. let (Koleda, cyklus Vteriny, Vanocni koleda, cyklus Zpivano do dalky a Dopis). Mnohe z techto skladeb maji zretelnou vazbu na konkretni osoby [...]
CD pisni Vitezslavy Kapralove edicne pripravil a nastudoval Timothy Cheek, pianista a pedagog univerzity v Michiganu, jejiz hudebni fakulta se na vydani CD -vedle Spolecnosti Vitezslavy Kapralove - financne podilela. Ke spolupraci vyzval pevkyni Danu Buresovou, solistku Narodniho divadla v Praze, ktera je jedinou interpretkou alba. Mozna by bylo v zajmu reprodukcni pestrosti lepsi rozdelit tento ukol mezi dva solisty, nejlepe muze a zenu (uz z toho duvodu, ze vetsina zhudebnenych textu je psana v muzskem rode). Sama Kapralova ani v jednom pripade obsazeni neurcuje, v podtitulu uvadi pouze "pro hlas a klavir", nanejvyse "pro vyssi hlas a klavir". Dana Buresova neni prozatim tak zkusenou pisnovou interpretkou, aby pri narocnosti vice nez hodinoveho programu dokazala jednotlive pisne zasadneji vyrazove odlisit, nicmene odvedla i tak vykon uctyhodny. Zdarile je i vybaveni CD: booklet ve ctyrech jazycich a ve velmi peknem vytvarnem zpracovani prinasi vedle zasveceneho uvodniho slova i texty vsech zhudebnenych basni. Secteno a podtrzeno: CD pisni Vitezslavy Kapralove je pocinem prvoradeho vyznamu, ktery je mozno jednoznacne privitat.
From a review by © Jindra Bartova for Opus Musicum 2 (2004): 45. Reprinted by permission.

Indrukwekkende liederen van vergeten talent.
Vitezslava Kapralova - 'Forever Kapralova'. Dana Buresova, sopraan, Timothy Cheek, piano en leden van het Herold Quartet. Supraphon SU 3752-2 231. www.kapralova.org
Tijdens haar leven werd Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-1940) gezien als een van de grootste componisten van haar generatie. Zij was een fenomeen: eerste vrouw die afstudeerde als componist aan het Brno Conservatorium, eerste winnares van de Smetana compositieprijs, eerste dirigente van het Tsjechisch Filharmonisch orkest. In 1937 verhuisde ze naar Parijs, ontmoette er Schönberg, Stravinsky, leden van de Group des Six en het duurde niet lang of haar eigen werken werden er uitgevoerd. Kapralova was succesvol, had charisma en belangrijke deuren gingen moeiteloos voor haar open. Maar tuberculose maakte nog vlak voor het uitbreken van WO-II een einde aan dat enerverende leven. Nu is Kapralova totaal vergeten, zelfs in eigen land Tsjecho-Slowakije waar Smetana, Dvorak, Janacek en Martinu nog altijd de concertprogramma's aanvoeren. Volgens de Kapralova Society, opgericht met als doel haar muziek te promoten, overtreft Kapralova haar beroemde landgenoten in de liedkunst. Met haar passie voor poëzie - ze verzamelde gedichten en schreef ze zelf ook - is het haast vanzelfsprekend dat die liedkunst haar favoriete genre was. Recent werd een prachtig verzorgde cd uitgebracht met 29 liederen. 'Forever Kapralova' is de titel en de kennismaking met haar muziek maakt inderdaad een onuitwisbare indruk. De liederen getuigen van een grote originaliteit. De toonzettingen treffen direct de sfeer van de gedichten. Trouwens die gedichten zijn ook erg de moeite waard en van tijd- en landgenoten van de componiste, waaronder Nobelprijswinnaar literatuur Jaroslav Seifert. De verzameling is chronologisch opgenomen en zo hoor je de muzikale ontwikkeling. Dana Buresova is een welluidende sopraan en haar vaardige begeleiders maken dit portret van Kapralova onvergetelijk.
Review by Patricia Werner Leanse, first printed in OPZIJ, May 2004. Reprinted by permission.

Vitezslava Kapralova: Songs.
Kapralova est pour le lied tchèque ce que Duparc est pour la mélodie française. Une redécouverte capitale.
From a review for abeillemusique.com (available online as of May 4, 2004).

Vitezslava Kapralova: Portrait of the Composer. Studio Matous, Czech Republic, MK 0049-2011.
It is indeed regrettable that Vitezslava Kapralova's (1915-40) exuberant musical voice was cut short before it had developed fully. As both composer and conductor, her gifts were recognized early and won her both praise and opportunity. Seven of her 25 works with opus numbers, written during the last five years of her life, appear on this CD. [...] Three of the pieces seem particularly promising for recital programming. Ritornell, op. 25, for cello and piano (1940), her last work performed by Ivan Merka, (cello), and Jaroslav Smykal, (piano), is brief (4:31) but full of musical energy, and gives both instruments an equal challenge. April Preludes, op. 13, for piano (1937, also performed by Jaroslav Smykal), has four short movements, each providing opportunity for technical display as well as nuanced, lyrical pianism. The Partita, op. 20, for string orchestra and piano (1938-39, performed by the Czech Symphony Orchestra of Brno, conducted by Frantisek Jilek with Jiri Skovajsa, piano), is really a piano concerto with three substantial, complex movements and frequent interactive dialogue between the string group and the piano. This is the most flavorful work on the CD, appealing in its angular rhythms and transparent textures. The performers on this CD meet Kapralova's energetic and skillful music with verve and finesse.
From a review by Alexandra Pierce, for the IAWM Journal 10/1, page 51. Reprinted by permission.

Forever Kapralova
Under the above title the Supraphon CD devoted to the songs of Vitezslava Kapralova is now available (SU 3752-2 231).
Until now there has been little opportunity to hear any of these songs outside the Czech Republic. Some members may recall a first UK broadcast by Jill Gomez in 1988 of the three songs Opus 12 entitled Forever along with Kapralova's last song The Letter in memorable performance.
Kapralova was born in 1915, the daughter of the composer Vaclav Kapral. The songs date from 1932, when she was a 17 year old student at the Brno Conservatory, to April 1940 shortly before her death at the age of 25. The earliest songs carry hints of Debussy but Kapralova soon found a distinctive voice of her own, albeit with some echoes of Martinu with whom she went to study in Paris in 1937. The songs Opus 12 from which the title of this album is taken are perhaps the finest of all with a haunting musical and emotional content.
The collection on this disc is complete save for two early exercises and what are described in the accompanying booklet as two 'utalitarian' songs written for special occasions, the Hymn of the volunteer nurses of the Czechoslovak Red Cross from 1938 and the Song of the workers of the Lord from 1939, discovered only recently. One can but regret their omission as they must carry a reflection of those traumatic times. In mitigation it must be said that this is a well filled disc (70 minutes duration with 29 tracks). Among other songs included is the touching Vanocni koleda which she wrote in Paris for her parents for Christmas 1939, rendered all the more poignant by their enforced separation through the occupation and the outbreak of the Second World War (circumstances not mentioned in the notes).
The songs are admirably performed by Dana Buresova who maintains a beautiful vocal line throughout. She is accompanied by Timothy Cheek who also wrote the liner notes. No admirer of the music of Kapralova will wish to be without this disc.
Finally one must commend Karla Hartl and the Kapralova Society for their persistence in getting the works of Kapralova published and committed to disc. It is remarkable that a small nucleus of dedicated people has been able to achieve so much with very limited resources. It is an object lesson for other small composer societies with a limited membership, some of which are much better endowed.
Review by Greg Terian for the Dvorak Society Newsletter, 67 (April 2004): 5.

HHHHH
Vitezslava Kapralova. Pisne. Dana Buresova - sopran, Timothy Cheek - klavir, Magda Caslavska - fletna, clenove Heroldova kvarteta Petr Zdvihal - 1. housle, JanValta - 2. housle, David Havelik - violoncello. Produkce: Petr Vit. Text: A, N, F, C. Nahrano: 7/2003, Studio Domovina, Praha. Vydano: 2003. TT: 70:13.DDD. 1 CD Supraphon SU 3752-2 231.
Souborne provedeni pisni V. Kapralove predstavuje jeji pisnovy odkaz jako prekvapive jednolity celek. Je to svet nesmirne krehky a zaroven dojemny ve sve uprimnosti a zranitelnosti. Zhudebnene basnicke texty pochazeji sice od ruznych autoru (Seifert, Nezval, Hora, Sramek, Carek, Kricka aj.), ale jsou spolecneho rodu - mluvi o smutku, stesku, louceni, osameni, nenavratnem plynuti casu. Je skutecne s podivem, jak Kapralova dokazala pres sve mladi vtisknout kazde pisni skladatelsky dokonaly tvar a jakou davku pruzracne hudebni poezie jim pritom vdechla. Vsechny jeji pisne se vyznacuji cistym a vyzralym rukopisem, ktery sice prochazi urcitym vyvojem, ale vzdy si zachovava sympatickou osobitost. Melodicka linka zni pri vsi modernosti tak prirozene, jako by ani nepripoustela jineho reseni. K jeji pusobivosti prispivaji klavirni doprovody, ktere s mimoradnou citlivosti dokresluji atmosferu pisni. Popisne zvukomalby uziva Kapralova minimalne, a pokud tak cini, pak vzdy s napaditosti a muzikantskym vtipem (ruch Jarni pouti, troji rozmanita stylizace ptaciho zpevu v Kolede, Rodnem kraji ci v Pisni milostne apod.). Dana Buresova zpiva pisne V. Kapralove s dokonalym pochopenim a vcitenim. Ma velmi prijemny a vyrovnane znejici hlas, ktery se zda byt prave pro tento druh hudby naprosto idealni. Americky pianista Timothy Cheek hraje s vedomim, ze klavirni part neni u Kapralove pouhym doprovodem, ale rovnocennou slozkou, kterou je nutne vypracovat do nejmensich detailu. A dari se mu to bajecne. Nutno pripomenout, ze T. Cheek je vynikajicim znalcem dila V. Kapralove a ceske kultury vubec (mj. prednedavnem vydal fundovanou publikaci "Singing in Czech" o ceske vokalni vyslovnosti pro anglicke zpevaky). Ceska prekladatelka Cheekova pruvodniho textu v bookletu pani Karla Hartl je zakladatelkou a predsedkyni Spolecnosti V. Kapralove, sidlici v Torontu. Jeji zasluhy o znovuobjeveni dila V. Kapralove jsou tak obrovske, ze je v tuto chvili ani nelze dostatecne docenit. Pripocteme-li ke vsem kladum tohoto CD navíc jeste krasnou vytvarnou podobu a velkoryse redakcni zpracovani, muzeme je bez rozpaku zaradit k nejvyznamnejsim a nejobjevnejsim tuzemskym projektum poslednich let.
Review by Veroslav Nemec for Harmonie, April 2004. Reprinted by permission.

Vitezslava Kapralova: Songs. Supraphon - DDD.
Un recente cd della Supraphon ci offre l'occasione per ritornare a parlare di Vitezslava Kapralova, musicista e direttrice d'orchestra, nata a Praga nel 1915 e morta di tubercolosi a Montpellier, a soli 25 anni. Il disco comprende la quasi totalita dei canti da lei composti, avvalendosi spesso delle liriche dei più importanti poeti cechi del periodo. Per questo motivo, nel nominare i titoli abbiamo scelto la versione inglese, dall'originale in quanto una traduzione in italiano li avrebbe ulteriormente snaturati. Il cd si apre con Two songs, op. 4, su testi di R. Bojko, al quale segue Sparks from Ashes, op. 5 (1932-33), su poesie di Bohdan Jelinek, mentre January, per voce, pianoforte, flauto, due violini e violoncello (1933) si avvale dell'apporto di Nezval e An apple from the Lap, op. 10 (1934-36) prende spunto dall'omonima raccolta di Seifert. Sono solo gli esempi iniziali di un disco che contiene anche riferimenti autobiografici, come il conclusivo Letter (1940), scritto pochi giorni dopo il matrimonio della Kapralova con Jiri Mucha, figlio del più noto Alphonse. Il pezzo e piuttosto curioso, se si pensa che di lì a poco la musicista sarebbe morta, in quanto il tema trattato non e un addio alla vita, ma la lettera di una ragazza che si lamenta con il ragazzo che l'ha rifiutata. In complesso, si può affermare che questi canti si discostino dal resto della produzione della Kapralova, non per lo stile, ma per gli stati d'animo che esprimono, incentrati soprattutto sul tema della sofferenza patita sia a causa della malattia che per la lontananza da Praga. Un vero e proprio diario intimo, sottolineato dalla eccezionale interpretazione del soprano Dana Buresova, che affronta i brani della Kapralova con grande trasporto ed immedesimazione, abbinati ad una splendida voce. Un notevole apporto e fornito dal pianista Timothy Cheek che, oltre a dimostrare grande affiatamento con la cantante, e autore delle note introduttive del corposo libretto di accompagnamento. All'altezza appaiono anche gli altri interpreti, la flautista Magda Caslavova con tre dei membri del Quartetto Herold, ovvero i violinisti Petr Zdvihal e Jan Valta ed il violoncellista David Havelik. In definitiva un disco di estremo interesse, che speriamo abbia anche in Italia la diffusione che merita, e che si deve principalmente al forte interessamento della Kapralova Society, organismo istituito nel 1997 con l'intento di diffondere la produzione della sfortunata compositrice ceca.
Review by Marco del Vaglio for Nuova e Nostra, March 28, 2004. Reprinted by permission.

Forever Kapralova (Songs).
Vitezslava Kapralova was a rising star in the 1930s. She was chosen to represent Czechoslovakia at the 1938 ISCM Festival for new music in London, where her compositions were presented alongside those of Bartok, Britten, Copland, Hindemith, and other VIPs of the twentieth century. A close associate of Bohuslav Martinu, she combined the best of Czech modernism with elements of French impressionism to form a highly individual and appealing style. Her death from miliary tuberculosis in 1940 put a premature end to what would likely have been a spectacular career.
Anyone looking for an introduction to Kapralova's music should start with this insightful recording by soprano Dana Buresova and pianist Timothy Cheek. As the first major release devoted to Kapralova, it wisely focuses on her most distinctive genre of composition - her songs for voice and piano. It is essentially a complete collection, leaving aside only juvenilia, occasional works, and one song that does not yet exist in a performable edition. By turn melancholy, joyful, and contemplative, the songs reveal an astonishingly mature style for such a young composer, and an ability to distill sentiment into musical form with deceptive ease. The natural inflections of the Czech language overlay sparkling piano textures that often bring Maurice Ravel to mind, with fleeting hints of Stravinsky and Kapralova's Czech contemporaries - although the end result is unmistakably her own.
Buresova sings these songs with obvious affection, bell-like tone, and a subtle sense of inflection. Cheek strikes just the right balance between clarity and warmth in the piano, allowing the rich, sometimes piquant, harmonies to linger without muddying the texture. Together they create the kind of partnership that is essential to chamber music of any kind, but especially songs, where mood, tempo, and color are concentrated into short forms. Magda Caslavova (flute), Petr Zdvihal, Jan Valta, and David Havelik (members of the Herold Quartet) are also excellent. This is a highly recommendable recording, both as a document of Kapralova's music and as a collection of songs in its own right. It is clearly a labor of love by all involved, and all the more enjoyable for it.
Review by Allen Schrott for All Music Guide, March 2004. Reprinted by permission.

Kapralova. Songs. Dana Buresova (soprano), Timothy Cheek (piano), Magda Caslavova (flute), Herold Quartet. Supraphon SU3752-2. 70:13 min.
Vitezslava Kapralova's tragic death from illness at the age of 25 in 1940 almost certainly deprived the Czechs of a major compositional talent. Schooled by Vitezslav Novak, Nadia Boulanger and Bohuslav Martinu, she possessed by her early twenties a formidable technique and was well on the way to developing a distinctive voice. This handsomely produced, near-complete recording of Kapralova's songs ranges from her teens to her sadly brief maturity in the late Thirties. Stylistically, her songs from the early Thirties mingle impressionism and Romanticism; interestingly, although she did not encounter Martinu for another few years, her melodic language already seems to be leaning toward his. A greater range of expression is apparent in the exquisite, ensemble-accompanied Nezval setting, "January." If the impressionist tones do not entirely disappear, Kapralova's later songs have a harder harmonic edge and greater motivic concentration. [...] There are some real treasures here and for anyone interested in 20th-century Czech music, a fresh perspective on the post-Janacek era.
From a review by Jan Smaczny for BBC Music Magazine, March 2004. Reprinted by permission

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