Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Sylvie BODOROVA (1954-)
Pontem video, Organ/String/percussion Concerto (1983) (1) [14.30]
Plankty, Music for Viola and Symphony Orchestra (1982) (2) [14.35]
Dignitas homini String Quartet No. 1 (1987) (3) [12.23]
Ventimiglia Music for Trumpet and Percussion (1992) (4) [11.16]
Concerto dei Fiori - Concerto for Violin and Strings (1996) [13.21]
Vera Hermanova (Organ); Jan Perusaka (viola); Miroslav Keimiar (trumpet); Vaclav Hudacek (violin); Prague SO/Jiri Belohlavek (1-2); Stamic Quartet (3); Prague Percussion Group/Amy Lynne Barber (4); Prague Chamber PO/Christopher Zimmerman
rec. 'njen' 1984 (1); 'cerven' 1984 (2); 'brezen' 1989 (3); 'kveten' 1997 (5), Planton, Supraphon, Cesky rozhlas recording, Rotag Records. Somewhere in Prague; Studio Ceskeho rozhlasu Prague, 1993 (4)
Panton, Cesky Rozhlas 71 0522-2 [66.27]
Contact address: QuattroSylvie Bodorova, Valentova 1731, 149 00 Praha 4, Czech Republic
tel./fax.: + 420 - 2 - 7921743 e-mail: Subject: Quattro

This is an almost identical compilation to a disc also reviewed , of 80 minutes length. Its disadvantages are that it omits the Oboe and Guitar Concertante pieces (the latter appearing in a new recording with Supraphon, see Guitar Concertos of Prague), and substitutes a Violin one only. Hence the running time is reduced from 80 minutes to 66.27. The advantages are a vastly more helpful booklet, and accessibility. The earlier disc was 'Not for Sale' generally though an approach via the above website may well yield up a copy and perhaps Bodorova's kind of official bootleg of herself ... Both discs seem to have been released under licence from Czech Radio Prague.

Either of them are most attractive discs. Here, at least, we can glean something of the composer for whom last time assembling facts about proved a detection game. This time there's a more garish-themed sleeve, part of a series of the 'Quattro' composers she belonged to. In the first CD the sticker shouted 'Quattro' and names Bodorova, Lubos Fiser (1935-99), Zdenek Lukas, Otmar Macha, as belonging to some Worshipful Company, fit though few. Fiser's just died, and one imagined the group was of an age, though Macha was born in 1922, 32 years older than Bodorova. Bodorova used the reverse side of that front cover to proclaim her credo in Czech and English. In her very slim single sheet the composer proclaimed: 'We are here so that we may illuminate things from a different angle.' This CD seems to come from the same stable, as the QUATTRO Website. I urge interested readers to access it.

Born 1954 she studied piano and composition at Bratislava and then the Janacek Academy of Performing Arts in Brno, taught by Kohoutek; then Gdansk, with Donatoni (are some of the chromatic slides and gradations his influence?). active at the Ton de Leuw in Amsterdam, she taught at the Janacek and then for two years 1994-96 as Composer in Residence at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. Her works have been widely performed, and another CD under review, the brief 16 minute Terezin Ghetto Requiem for Baritone and String Quartet was performed at the Wigmore, and at the 2000 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival amongst other prestigious places. I missed it at the latter, which is so packed with premieres.

She doesn't quite manage to 'illuminate things from a different angle.', as another unproclaimed fact emerges. It's almost certain that Bodorova composed film scores through the latter years of the regime. The works here, mostly concertante, are the attractive dramaturge to express a true individuality. The only impediment is a dramatic, narrative fluency in post-Bartokian, all-purpose Eastern bloc style. The advantage is a real melodic gift, an acute ear for striking sonorities, some harmonic resource, and most of all a lack of inhibition. She displays an ability to build and sustain climaxes over a quarter of an hour. This view is based on hearing the works recorded here mainly dating from 1982-92 in this essentially chronological survey. Only the last piece is from 1996. Now the snobbery about film-composers and their idiom is vanishing, Bodorova can emerge as a fine composer.

The Organ Concerto has a memorable dipping and rising figure in fourths, against a Morricone-like percussion: Once Upon a Time in the East. It builds impressively, if not without a real dash of vulgarity: tabasco and brimstone. In fact the impression of late 70s Rock isn't exactly dispelled, and the memorable opening theme is symphonic rock with a Czech accent. This was quite advanced for the Czechoslovakia of 1983. It's one of the dramatic influences that shape her concertante pieces, with just a whiff of transcended kitsch, recalling Schnittke. But it is memorable, which is what counts.

The Viola Concerto might have been a better opener. A fine work, with the orchestra cleverly slimmed to striking percussion effects that don't drown the viola, yet unleash a loud enough sound world. Again, a falling/rising figure dominates the melodic frame, coming from the viola (almost quoting And All Because the Lady Loves Milk Tray, one might add), and again a sustained climax. There's a hypnotic repetition of a four-note motto played on the viola at around 8' that's quite haunting. At about 7' there's a rather British catchy three-note motif with the opening phrases never far away. The climax recalls Britten's writing for viola in Lachrymae. The more I hear the work the more I enjoy it.

The next item really illustrates roots, as string quartets have a habit of doing. This is post-Janacek, with all the narrative tensions of his First, (Bodorova, clearly has written a Second in the 90s). It opens with subtle inflections and a world not far removed from Schnittke's; if you can imagine a Czech Schnittke here, it's Bodorova. Their film-writing in common perhaps (someone will tell me she never wrote for films, and I won't believe them). A tutti call to attention is soon fined down to ruminations by the leader, and the others, which, in turn, give way to a series of meditations, dramatic, and again with an undulating support straight out of sinister, spy-fed films. Excellent for Le Carré in darker Prague. With a very effective sonority, Bodorova sets a sure pace that never falters; it holds one's attention. Ostinato-rhythms come to the fore, sounding in their repetitions almost Nyman-esque; with far more variety. But the shift from solo to two or more players pitted against the others' sonorities, make this a kind of concerto for string quartet at times, especially in the central section. Touches of Smetana's First and Second quartets meld into post-Janacek, and post Haba, Haas, and Krasa, reminding us what the world lost in Czech composers in the mid-century: Haba alone remained, Martinu exiled. The title 'Dignitas homini' hauntingly tells us Bodorova might regard this as a threnody on the thwarted dignity of many compatriots.

A Trumpet Concerto of sorts rises with oracular noises-on from the soloist. Is this the way Bodorova has gone, I wondered in the first disc? In one sense it's inevitable that she's liberated herself as a composer, free to experiment with what she likes. But the high jinks wear thin - she has the talent but not the compulsion for this. It's valid, but in her case seems greasepaint stuck on for effect. The title might justify it, but too bad. The melodic material is good enough without it, and this work sustains the high level of the preceding works. A particularly memorable opening theme, like the Organ Concerto's, returns to close the proceedings, after a strangulated yelp from the soloist.

The Concerto dei Fiori - Concerto for Violin and Strings (1996) furnishes an answer. It's a live performance, as we are told the String Quartet is, though here the applause is included. It's a kind of scena for violin and orchestra, with a long cadenza at its heart. A rising figure, a kind of soft-centred Martinu effect, predominates. Clearly a discreet post-romanticism has won the decade. Not a bad thing. The rock elements seem to have been gradually purged, and a more contemplative lyricism emerged triumphant.

Bodorova is a fine composer, stagy at times, but memorable, And ultimately, whatever fashion trickles through the ex-Eastern Bloc, it's this quality, with hindsight, that distinguishes the grey from the evergreen in a conservative sound-world. Excellent performances, and line-up - Jiri Belohlavek conducting the first two items. Recommendation enough.

Simon Jenner

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: - The UK's Biggest Video Store Musicians accessories
Click here to visit