Prague–Vienna: Journey in Songs
Martina Janková (soprano)
Barbara Maria Willi (fortepiano)
rec. 2006, Church of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in Prague-Vinohrady
Texts and translations included but German/Italian into Czech translation, not English or French
SUPRAPHON SU4231-2 [53:34]
The wayfaring between Prague and Vienna pursued in this disc takes in the music of five Czech-born composers and two Austrians, the subject of their songs being, in the main, love. Martina Janková’s bright, pure soprano is accompanied by Barbara Maria Willi who plays on the only surviving fortepiano built by Franz Joseph Baumeister, in 1797. To be precise, though they were from the Czech lands, the quintet of composers was Bohemian and given the prevailing political and linguistic circumstances all set German, or Italian, texts. Indeed, in their whole musical careers Voříšek and Koželuch only set one song in their native language apiece.
Václav Jan Tomásek’s single song here wears a fresh Haydnesque stamp whilst the brace by Koželuch, though very brief, offer a fine contrast, with the eager Spira pur leading on to the expressive yielding of Sento amor. Here Janková cleverly varies her vibrato speed, and canny use of dynamics brings the music vividly to life. If you journey from Prague to the heart of Viennese Classicism you will invariably call on Mozart, three of whose songs are here. The most complete and the one that offers most opportunity for declamation is Abendempfindung but the most agitated is Als Luise die Briefe.
One younger contemporary of Mozart who learned a great deal from him was Ján Josef Rösler and the flighty element in his music-making makes for engaging listening. This is especially true of a droll setting of La Veritŕ which is well characterised and dispatched by the soprano in a saucy kind of way. Her singing of Haydn’s The Spirit’s Song is especially sensitive, and she is suitably light-hearted in Kalivoda’s Frühlings Wanderschaft, Op.172, abetted by the sonority of the light and colourful fortepiano. One of the very best songs here is Voříšek’s An Sie, a setting of adroit pointing, fine word painting and gracious lyricism. It receives a performance to match.
It’s something of a surprise that these recordings were made as long ago as 2006. Why they haven’t seen the light of day until now is a question that I can’t answer but in the intervening period Janková re-recorded the Haydn songs, in different arrangements (two solo strings and piano) also for Supraphon. Perhaps this recital was always intended for Supraphon’s Music from Eighteenth-Century Prague series, or possibly its inclusion now is rather more opportunistic. In addition, the German and Italian texts carry translations into Czech but not English or for that matter, French. Haydn’s English language songs carry Czech translations. Listeners without much German – the dominant language in the programme - will, I suspect, be at some disadvantage.
Recorded in a long familiar location the presentation of this release is most attractive, the booklet cover being graced by a coloured engraving of the Lesser Town and Prague Castle from 1860. By then, tellingly, only Kalovoda was still alive – and he was to die six years later. His presence here, chronologically, is a total anomaly but then so is Voříšek’s and quite possibly Tomásek’s too given that their songs date from the nineteenth century. So there are more than a few loose ends with this 54-minute disc, no matter how accomplished the performances.
Vaclav Jan TOMÁŠEK (1774–1850)
An den Mond, op. 56 [3:09]
Leopold KOŽELUH (1747–1818)
Spira pur [1:42]
Sento amor [1:36]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Das Veilchen [2:27]
Als Luise [1:34]
Ján Josef RÖSLER (1771–1813)
Arietta Il niente [1:58]
An die Entfernte La Veritŕ [4:05]
Joseph HAYDN (1731–1809)
O Tuneful Voice [4:48]
The Spirit´s Song [5:35]
Jan Václav VORÍŠEK (1791–1825)
An Sie [2:33]
Die Abschiedsträne [3:14]
Jan Václav KALIVODA (1801–1866)
Frühlings Wanderschaft [3:02]