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Antonín TUČAPSKÝ (b.1928)
Violin Concerto (1993) [27.03]
Viola Concerto (1996) [29.16]
Víteszlav Kuzník (violin)
Pavel Peřina (viola)
Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra/Petr Vronský (violin concerto)
Prague Symphony Orchestra/Elli Jaffe (viola concerto)
Recorded Smetana Hall, Prague, 28 March 1999 (Violin); 28 Jan 2000 live (Viola)

Tučapský has long been a London resident, latterly as Professor of Composition at Trinity College of Music until his recent retirement. Born near Brno in 1924 he studied with Jan Kunc, a former pupil of Janáček and Novak, and was a noted choral conductor – his performances with the Moravian Teachers Male Voice Choir have been well documented on disc and indeed I reviewed the Somm disc that so attractively brought them back to the catalogue. After his marriage to English soprano Beryl Musgrave, which made him politically suspect, he lost his professional posts and he and his wife left for London.

The two concertos here were written in the last few years of his professorship at Trinity – the Violin Concerto in 1993 and that for Viola a few years later in response to a commission from Martin Outram, viola player of the Maggini Quartet and New London Orchestra. They are both marvellous examples of his art. The Violin Concerto, like its companion cast in three movements, opens in quicksilver fashion, bright and virtuosic until the solo line leans into more reflective material over a quietly quizzical orchestral patina. There’s some strong chordal folk influence here and humorously fluttery or “shaky” work for the soloist with Tučapský constantly flecking and renewing the humorous sub text. Throughout he keeps an unimpeachable balance between seriousness and levity, between orchestral colour and incident and the long line. In the slow movement (Adagio serio) which opens with the musing violin, solo, there is an almost lyrical-oratorical intensity to the playing, pensive introspection from the supportive orchestral forces which then do, eventually, open out in generous freedom. The journey ends in sensitive warmth. The finale opens with bustle and percussive tumult – a fun of the fair elation sweeps one on - open trumpets, horn calls and plenty of efflorescence. One can just detect some Janáček-influenced flute writing over the solo pizzicati before one plunges on again in this intoxicating movement – clip clop percussion like horse hooves and a strong rustic feeling. One might think of Moravia, given his nationality, and the winding roads south from Brno to Bzenec – I also thought of Thomas Hardy and Wessex. The central panel slows for some reflection and a moment of anxiety even with the violin singing in alt before – superbly - there’s a drama-laced dash to the finish.

The Viola Concerto was inspired by Tučapský’s unease – and more - at the separation of Czechoslovakia in 1993 into the two separate republics. But the first movement opens in a jaunty enough fashion with pleasurable lyricism, the soloist adding his own little fillips to the orchestral material. Throughout the work, which thrives on contrastive material we can appreciate Tučapský’s sure ear for the telling colour and instrumental combination, for the flow and retardation of the moment – for the convincing realisation of structure. In the lyrically plangent slow movement for example he quotes the Slovak folksong Dobrou noc in hesitant, fragmentary form, as the viola’s intensely personal voice is shaded by lower and high winds, until a beautiful string cantilena courses through the movement. Over sturdy double basses the first fiddles take up the folk song, brass nobility singing out assertively not melodramatically. These are moments of concise emotional charge, specific in inspiration yet general in understanding. The finale by contrast delves into the world of the Mahlerian hunting horn, full of Ländler feeling and processional, fizzing orchestral strings and frequently motoric viola. The soloist flattens and flutters in his solo line to delicious effect, overcomes some stern reminiscences and the work ends in well-won triumph.

Sincere praise goes to the performers for their vitality, sensitivity and accomplishment and to Somm’s production values. It really is an exciting, engaging and life-affirming coupling of two splendid concertos.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Barnett


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