in chronological order (the latest review at the top)
KAPRALOVA:Military Sinfonietta, op. 11, String Quartet, op. 8, April Preludes, op. 13, Ritornell, op. 25, Partita, op. 20, Waving Farewell, op. 14, Martinu-Kapralova: Love Carol. Czech SYmphony Orchestra of Brno, cond. Frantisek Jilek; Janacek Quartet; Jaroslav Smykal (pno), Ivan Merka (vlc); Lenka Skornickova (S), Jitka Drobilkova (pno); Jiri Skovajsa (pno), Vilem Pribyl (T). Matous MK 0049-2 011.
This is essentially a compilation from performances recorded between 1974 and 1998, to varying degrees of excellence and to different acoustics. Nevertheless, it furnishes ample evidence that Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-1940) was at least as good a composer as claimed in the article by Karla Hartl and Eugene Gates that appeared in July's Tempo: indeed, a remarkably gifted artist, all of whose music sounds fresh, bold and sure of its aim.
It's probably important not to see her in isolation, but as perhaps the youngest of that talented post-Janacekian generation of Czech musicians whose memory was virtually obliterated during World War II and whose achievements are only now infiltrating our awareness. Unlike Hans Krasa or Pavel Haas, Kapralova did not perish in the concentration camp but succumbed apparently to tuberculosis in Montpellier (just after marrying Alphonse Mucha's son). But she belongs partly in their creative company, and her music is no less valuable than theirs. This is already clear in the earliest work here, the String Quartet (1936-7), a passionate and confidently handled score of distinct individuality that blends something of the spirit of Janacek's Intimate Letters with a free chromaticism reminiscent of Berg's op. 3. This slightly 'Expressionistic' strain is continued in Waving Farewell (1937), a deeply-felt (and prophetic) elegy for tenor and orchestra.
Exactly contemporary with these works, the three-movement-in-one Military Sinfonietta, Kapralova's great 'hit' of the 1938 ISCM Festival in London, is more forthright and modal in its material. In a time of international crisis, it's a clear declaration of national identity ("Militant", perhaps, rather than "Military"), looking back to Janacek's Sinfonietta - and forward, one may think, to Panufnik's Sinfonia Sacra. But its concision and economy compel admiration; it makes an effective concert opener, rousing to thought as well as action. The April Preludes for piano display a more delicate, lyrical and indeed humorous side to Kapralova's muse, normally so tough in fibre.
The Partita for piano and string orchestra (1938-9), chief fruit of her Paris studies with Martinu, is perhaps the least personal utterance here; parallels with her mentor's works of the late 1930s abound, not least a 'neo-classical' impulse not otherwise much detectable in Kapralova's output. Yet, once again, the medium is consummately handled - this isn't a student work (nothing on the CD could be so described) but a minor classic worthy any crack chamber orchestra's attention. Love Carol, two brief settings of the same text by Martinu and Kapralova, is a touching memorial of their clandestine affair. But the Ritornell for cello and piano, her last work, is a powerful, concentrated expression of tragic eloquence - moving testimony to a substantial creative personality who had already hit her stride before her career was so cruelly cut short.
Review by © Calum MacDonald, Tempo, October 2000, p. 60. Reprinted by permission.
Zapomenuti nebo objev? Vitezslava Kapralova (1915–1940)
Vitezslava Kapralova: Portrait of a Composer.
Kapralova neni zapomenuta
Vitezslava Kapralova: Ritratto di una compositrice
Esecutori: Orchestra Sinfonica di Stato di Brno, diretta da Frantisek Jilek, Quartetto Janacek, Lenka Skornickova (soprano), Vilem Pribil (tenore), Ivan Merka (violoncello) Jitka Drobilkova, Jiri Skovajsa, Jaroslav Smykal (pianoforte) Studio Matous - ADD.
Nella storia della musica vi sono figure cosi rappresentative che racchiuderle in poche righe puo apparire oltremodo riduttivo. Una di queste č sicuramente la compositrice ceca Vitezslava (Vita) Kapralova che, ad onta del suo brevissimo percorso terreno, ebbe una vita di un'intensita incredibile. Figlia del compositore cecoslovacco Vaclav Kapral, nacque a Brno nel 1915 e dovette fin da piccola fare i conti con la tubercolosi per cui trascorse spesso interi mesi in sanatorio. Dimostro subito un talento precocissimo, creando a nove anni la sua prima composizione, intraprendendo successivamente una carriera artistica sfolgorante. Suoi maestri furono, a Praga, Novak e Talich, due dei massimi esponenti della musica cecoslovacca. Successivamente si reco in Francia, vincitrice di una borsa presso l'Ecole Normale de Musique di Parigi. Li frequento maestri del calibro di Munch e della Boulanger ed inoltre approfondi gli studi di composizione sotto la guida del connazionale Martinu. Il soggiorno parigino fu particolarmente fecondo perche le permise sia di dare vita ai suoi brani piů significativi che di perfezionarsi nell'ambito della direzione d'orchestra. Le due attivita spesso si sovrapposero come quando, nel 1938, la sua Sinfonietta Militare, scelta per inaugurare l'ISCM Festival di Londra, fu da lei stessa diretta alla testa dell'Orchestra Sinfonica della BBC. Nel 1939, anno dell'invasione nazista della Cecoslovacchia, la Kapralova si trovava ancora a Parigi e decise di non tornare in patria, assumendo lo stato di rifugiata. L'anno successivo sposo Jiri Mucha, figlio del noto pittore Alfonse, ma la loro unione duro molto poco in quanto, minata dalla malattia, si spense a Montpellier nel 1940. Dopo aver doverosamente inquadrato un personaggio a dir poco straordinario, parliamo del disco inciso dalla Studio Matous che offre un'ampia panoramica della produzione della compositrice. Il cd si apre con la gia citata Sinfonietta Militare, op.11 (1936-37), un brano che attinge alla tradizione popolare e ricorda talora l'inconfondibile stile del suo maestro Martinu. Ma la musica della Kapralova abbraccio un po' tutti i generi, come si evince ascoltando lo splendido Quartetto per archi, op. 8 (1937) dove elementi di modernita si fondono suggestivamente con motivi di origine folcloristica, per non parlare dell'intenso Preludi d'Aprile, op. 13 per pianoforte (1937). Love Carol (1938) e Waving Farewell, op. 14 (1937), sono invece esempi interessanti di brani vocali su testi di autori cechi. Completano il quadro il Ritornello per violoncello e pianoforte, op. 25 (1940) e la Partita per pianoforte ed orchestra d'archi, op. 20 (1938-39). Un breve cenno meritano l'Orchestra Sinfonica di Stato di Brno, diretta da Frantisek Jílek, il Quartetto Janacek, il soprano Lenka Skornickova, il tenore Vilem Pribil, il violoncellista Ivan Merka ed i pianisti Jitka Drobilkova, Jiri Skovajsa, Jaroslav Smykal che hanno contribuito alla ottima riuscita del cd grazie ad un elevato livello interpretativo. In conclusione un disco che rappresenta la consacrazione, anche se eccessivamente tardiva, di una autrice che, nonostante sia vissuta appena 25 anni, ha influenzato in modo evidente tutta la musica ceca del Novecento.
Review by © Marco del Vaglio for CIEMME - Comunicazioni di Massa, No. 15, August 1, 2000. Reprinted by permission.
A Handsome Tribute to a Remarkable Woman Composer
VITEZSLAVA KAPRALOVA (1915-1940)
Vitezslava Kapralova, portret skladatelky
Portret plny pochopeni
Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-40) seems to have been an extraordinary prodigy, to judge by the CD of seven of her works.
Tragically short-lived and prodigiously talented, Vitezslava Kapralova is remembered today mainly for her association with Martinu. This excellent and generously filled issue does a great deal to establish her credentials as a genuinely fascinating voice in inter-war Czech music: a rich post-Romantic harmonic vocabulary shot through with hints of Debussy-like colouring. The recordings on this CD are a miscellany stretching back to 1974, but each performance is much more than a read-through. Especially impressive is a committed recording of her Military Sinfonietta by Jilek, showing a powerful structural sense and clear feeling for the occasional moments of impressionistic instrumental colour. The one disappointment is the performance of her moving song Waving Farewell with Pribyl in less than his best voice. But the music is the main focus and it is remarkable: her String Quartet, composed when she was barely 20, is enormously assured; little wonder Martinu saw the makings of a composer of genius: the Partita written under his guidance is bracing and full of ear-catching invention. Much as the rediscovery of the Terezin composers has opened up a new world, this handsome tribute to Kapralova adds greatly to our understanding of 20th-century Czech music.
Review by © Jan Smaczny for the BBC Music Magazine, June 1999. Reprinted by permission.
Vitezslava Kapralova: Portret skladatelky
The Kapralova CD
This eagerly anticipated disc entitled "Portrait of a Composer" (Matous MK 0049-2011) is just to hand. It consists of a selection of Vitezslava Kapralova's works drawn from the last five years of her short life.
Born in 1915, she began composing at the age of nine. Given that her composer father Vaclav Kapral was a pupil of Janacek and that she studied composition with Vitezslav Novak, who in turn was a pupil of Dvorak, one has a good idea of where this music is coming from.
The earliest work included here is the String Quartet of 1935. It is an assured work which holds the attention for its 20-minute span. It receives a committed performance from the Janacek Quartet.
The Military Sinfonietta which followed in 1936/37 is her best known work. Conventional in style, it is the work which brought her international fame. She conducted the Sinfonietta in London in June 1938 when her country was under threat and the clouds of war were gathering. With its military themes, the work made a considerable impact.
From 1937 we have the April Preludes for Piano, an attractive Debussyesque work dedicated to Rudolf Firkusny. After performing it he requested more piano compositions from Kapralova and one can understand why. Jaroslav Smykal's account on this disc is sensitive yet robust where necessary.
Her last work before leaving Czechoslovakia in 1937 to continue her studies in Paris was the song Waving Farewell (to Prague). The orchestral accompaniment which was added later echoes of La Mer. The tenor soloist on this recording is Vilem Pribyl. It would be interesting to hear the song as it was originally performed by a soprano with piano accompaniment.
The collaboration with Martinu which followed her arrival to Paris is illustrated in an original way with settings of a Love Carol for voice and piano by each of them and specially recorded for this disc. His is the more direct setting (48 seconds), hers the more elaborate treatment (1.20).
The next work dating from 1938/39 is the Partita for Piano and a String Orchestra which shows the extent to which she had absorbed the Martinu idiom. One is not surprised to learn that he actively assisted her with this attractive and enjoyable work.
The Ritornell for Cello and Piano completes the disc. The tragic circumstances surrounding its composition are worth noting. On 23 April 1940 Kapralova married Jiri Mucha in Paris. He was serving in the Czech Legion based near Montpellier. In May Kapralova began composing this work. She became critically ill and was able to complete only the first of two projected works for cello.
On the morning of Sunday, 19th May, Pierre Fournier and Rudolf Firkusny gave the first performance of Martinu's First Cello Sonata. Kapralova was too ill to attend. After the concert Firkusny and Martinu visited her but found her very poorly. Presumably this was their last meeting because on the following day she was evacuated to Montpellier. On 10th June the Martinus fled Paris as the German armies approached. On 16th June Kapralova died aged 25.
In recent years some notable cellists have adopted works by Martinu. The little Ritornell would make a touching companion piece. On this disc it receives a compelling performance from Ivan Merka and Jaroslav Smykal.
All the items on this CD apart from the Love Songs originate from Brno Radio broadcasts. The orchestral items come from a concert given by the Brno State Orchestra under Frantisek Jilek in 1991. There is no doubt as to the quality of those performances and the recording. The other recordings date back as far as 1974 but the sound quality in all cases is perfectly acceptable.
This recording is an invaluable document providing a fascinating view of Kapralova's achievements and a pointer to what might have followed had she lived.
© Review by Greg Terian for the Dvorak Society Newsletter, No. 47, April 1999. Reprinted by permission.
Vitezslava Kapralova: Portret skladatelky
Vitezslava Kapralova: Portret skladatelky
Jindrich Uher: Ona a Martinu.Cesky spisovatel, Praha 1995, 228s.
[...] Casove prekryvani, jeho skoky ci posuny dopredu a zpatky se mi libi, pozornost si ale zaslouzi citaty z kritik ci muzikologicke prace. Tim, ze jsou vytisteny prolozene a prerusuji vzdy v pravy cas romanove vypraveni - tedy autorovu fabulaci - pusobi na ctenare svou nespornou autenticnosti [...]. Pravda vsak je, ze nektere zavery v nich obsazene (protoze jsou bez komentare) jsou nejvice zpochybnitelne. Dopisy, ktere jsou zde rovnez uzity, jsou dilem nove - dosud nepublikovane - dilem se (byt treba uryvkem) opakuji z "Podivnych lasek" [...]. Kde je ale rozsireni informaci (predevsim pro "zasvecene"), kterych se ctenari dostalo uz u Muchy, nejpatrnejsi, je v "pikantnostech" zde obsazenych.
From a review by Pavel Blatny for Opus musicum, 28, no. 1 (1996): 2-5.
Rozpadle knize of Martinu a Kapralove schazi duse.
[..] Ona a Martinu [je] pribeh, jehoz osou ma byt osudovy vztah mladicke skladatelky Vitezslavy Kapralove k Bohuslavovi Martinu. Okamzite se tu nabizi srovnani s vynikajicim romanem-neromanem Jiriho Muchy Podivne lasky, ktery zpracovava takrka stejnou latku: zatimco vsak pro Muchu znamenala Vitezslava Kapralova kus jeho vlastni osobni historie - byla jeho manzelkou, pro Uhra mohla byt pouze historickym nametem. [...] Miseni obou rovin - fiktivni a nefiktivni - se ukazuje jako jeden ze zakladnich problemu knihy. Autor se nemuze rozhodnout, ktere ma dat prednost, a proto ani jedna z nich nemuze byt dovedena do hloubky. Brani-li se Uher pod zaminkou historicke vernosti spekulacim o tom ci onom bilem miste v skladatelcine zivote, pak jednim dechem nevaha tuto svou zasadu porusit a vymysli si drobne situace, aby shromazdeni holych historickych faktu [ale tez neoverenych spekulaci - pozn. ed.] beletristicky osvezil; je to ovsem beletrie az zoufale cervenoknihovni. [..] Uherova kniha pusobi nesourode, postrada autorskou odvahu a ve srovnani s Muchovymi Podivnymi laskami predevsim - dusi. Podoba se nejspise prozaizovanemu scenari k neprilis vydarenemu rozhlasovemu pasmu.
From a review by Jan Schneider for MF Dnes, October 11, 1995.
BEAUTY FROM THE ASHES. QUARTET'S TEREZIN PROJECTS REVIVE WORKS BY NAZIS' VICTIMS
Silenced Voices. Shulhoff, Kapralova, Klein. Northeastern NR 248-CD.
For Them, Time Ran Out. The fascinating and moving new compact disc "Silenced Voices" offers poignant witness to what was - and what might have been.