Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Serenade for Strings 29.17
St Wenceslas Meditation 6.42
Suite for Strong Orchestra 20.13
Czech Chamber Orchestra/Ondrej Kukal
rec (Dvorák) March 1994; remainder May 1996 CAMPION RRCD1346 [57.03]

The Dvorák Serenade's delicacy and smoothness are captured in the lively hall of the Rudolphinium. This brings out the Valse Triste echoes in the Tempo di Valse. The masculine heft and impact of the performance is striking and quite contrary to what one might have expected of a chamber orchestra. This is a rippling and urbanely knowing performance in which all involved seem caught up in one of the finest works of the string orchestral genre. The leaping voltage meters of the allegro vivace will be a good litmus of whether or not you will fall for this performance.

The Janacek Suite is charming and undemanding. If anything the work is slightly bland. Thematic material is not strongly memorable. If you think of the comparison between the Elgar Serenade and the Introduction and Allegro you will get the picture. If you know your Sibelius think in terms of the Suite Champêtre as against the string waves of the Sixth Symphony. The suite, nicely done by Kukal and his players, is the counterpart of the Serenade and the Suite Champêtre.

The Suk (dating from 1914) is a profoundly moving work at once a Great War cousin to the Barber Adagio and a much closer counterpart to Holst's Ode to Death (dedicated to the young Scottish composer Cecil Cole killed in the Great War) and Herbert Howells' Elegy for viola, string quartet and string orchestra (dedicated to Francis Purcell Warren also killed in the Great War in 1917). Here, although the performance lacked only the force of a fuller body of strings to expand to the full breadth of tone, the sense of a tragically special moment in time was undeniable.

The Janacek and the Suk were recorded not in the Rudolphinium but in The Church in Soukenicka Street.

A nice disc - made essential by the Dvorák. Pity Campion could not have squeezed a further work onto the disc.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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