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Masters Of Czech Baroque And Classicism
Jiří Ignác LINEK (1725-1791)

Sinfonia pastoralis ex C [15’08].
Leopold Antonín KOŽELUH (1747-1818)

Symphony in G minor [17’53].
František Xaver BRIXI (1732-1771)

Sympnony in D [8’38].
Antonín REJCHA (1770-1836)

Symphony in E flat, Op. 41 [22’53].
Czech Chamber Philharmonic/Vojtěch Spurný.
Rec. at the ‘Domovina’ Studio, Prague, in November 2002 and February 2003. DDD
BMG CZECH REPUBLIC 82876 552872 [64’48]


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Jiří Ignác Linek is hardly a household name. The first line of the booklet note on him perhaps points us in the direction of why: he is ‘a representative of the musical culture of the Czech village schoolmasters’. Hardly an incentive to scurry off and fling the disc into the machine. Apparently Linek wrote well over two hundred works, including a number of Christmas pastorals. His Sinfonia pastoralis (one of two of this type: the other is in D and is available on Supraphon 111007-2) was probably intended for performance at his local church in Bakov nad Jizerou during the Christmas holidays. It is a bright piece that recalls J. C. Bach’s Sinfonias. It is eminently civilised (although, amusingly, a repeated harpsichord note around 1’10 is rather like having a nail hammered into one’s forehead!). The spiky, gallant Adagio leads to a brief (1’52) Presto that begins happily enough before ‘Sturm und Drang’ rears its head. Interesting.

Koželuh (or Kozeluch as his name is sometimes found) is perhaps better known, although not much. Interesting to note that more Koželuh has appeared recently on the ever-enterprising CPO label – the oratorio Moisè in Egitto (1878: 999 948-2). Koželuh’s career was more international than Linek’s, and substantially more successful. He went to Vienna in the late 1770s and even refused an offer to become Mozart’s successor to the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1781. Immediately it is obvious we are in a different league from Linek. The opening is busy, impassioned, with inner-voice tremolandi generating a fair momentum and energy. Articulation in this performance is superb, as is the Czech Chamber Philharmonic’s responsiveness to Koželuh’s dark harmonic colourings. This is a varied landscape, and leads to a satisfying experience. Delicious oboes add a special touch of colour to the hushed Adagio; the Presto finale is marvellously sustained here (it is easy to imagine lesser ensembles allowing interest to flag).

The next stop on this whistle-top tour of the byways of Czech pre-Classicism is with F. X. Brixi. Brixi, son of a Prague organist, wrote over 500 works (including over 100 masses). His music was held in some esteem by Mozart, although on present evidence it is difficult to see exactly why. Not that this is bad music – far from it, it is elegant, brisk and breezy and most certainly does not overstay its welcome – but it is surely of no great import. From 1759, Brixi held the post of conductor of St Vitus’ Cathedral, an appointment of very high standing.

The final work in this disc is by far the best. Antonín Rejcha (Reicha)’s Symphony in E flat, Op. 41 simply must be heard. Pupil of Haydn, teacher of Liszt, Berlioz and Gounod, Reicha’s music was significantly more recognised in his day than now. Until recently he has perhaps been better known as a theorist, or among wind players for his works for wind ensemble (try review ).

The present symphony dates from his first stay in Paris (1799-1802). It is beautifully crafted – note how the Allegro steals in after the Largo introduction. The imaginative, richly varied Andante un poco adagio leads to a gentle Minuet and Trio and a finale (‘Un poco vivo’) that shifts unpredictably in its moods.

A fascinating disc of little-known music, expertly performed by a top-class chamber orchestra. The disc seems to be available at mid-price, a further incentive to purchase. From the orchestra’s biography, the Czech Chamber Philharmonic tours mainly in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Benelux. Could they, I wonder, be persuaded to grace these shores?

Colin Clarke

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