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Antonín KRAFT (1749-1820)
Cello Concerto in C major, Op.4 (c.1792) [23:31]
Antonín VRANICKÝ (1761-1820)
Cello Concerto in D minor [25:57]
Carl STAMITZ (1745-1801)
Cello Concerto No.2 in A major [20:14]
Michal Kaňka (cello)
Prague Chamber Orchestra
rec. January and March 2012, St. Francis of Assisi Church in the Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia, Prague
SUPRAPHON SU 4108-2 [69:31]

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Three gifted Czech composers grace this latest Supraphon disc. Kraft and Stamitz were Bohemian - the latter was actually born in Mannheim of Bohemian diaspora parents - and Vranický was Moravian, born in a town due south of Jihlava - where Mahler was born.
Antonín Kraft was strongly influenced by Haydn and that’s immediately audible from his concerto’s introduction. Indeed it’s one reason why some of Kraft’s works have been mistaken for those of Haydn. Deft passagework, and an ear for the dramatic possibilities of punctuation ‘pauses’, mark out just two of Kraft’s compositional skill. Then, too, he likes little military turns of phrase alternating with considerable phrasal warmth. He takes the cello up high in the second movement Romance before launching an energetic, rather insouciant ‘Cossack’ finale. As one can gather from this brief description, Kraft’s concerto is full of verve and variety and it’s played with attention to detail and fine tonal qualities by Michal Kaňka whose scalar ascents in the finale are especially fine.
Though he’s better known for his violin music, indeed as leader of the Vienna violin school, Vranický did write a single concerto for the cello. It’s fluently written with a fine slow movement which plumbs the expressive depths that composers such as Haydn and Monn had plumbed earlier. He writes a charming Rondo finale too, which sports a wide-ranging cadenza written by Jiří Rajniš, who has also written a cadenza for the Stamitz concerto. Talking of whom, the prolific Carl Stamitz, about whom Mozart was extremely rude, contributes perhaps the least interesting of the three concertos, if we are ranking them in order. It’s proficient, and warmly textured, but not especially distinctive. It certainly lacks the quixotic zest of the Kraft, for example. Stamitz did write too much, so that may explain it.
There are no concerns about either performances or recording quality, both of which are excellent. Michal Kaňka is better known as a chamber player than as a soloist but he deals with matters with aplomb. I take it, given there is no conductor, that the two named leaders of the modern instrument Prague Chamber Orchestra direct the band from the first desk.
Jonathan Woolf

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