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Czech And Moravian Oboe Music

Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3079   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Pavel MasekJirí TemlEdvard SchiffauerPavel Cotek,   ... 
Performer:  Pablo Mahave-VegliaPaul SwantekVitezslav CernochMarlen Vavrikova,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CZECH AND MORAVIAN OBOE MUSIC Marlen Vav?íková (ob); Vit?zslav C?rnoch (vn 1 ); Paul Swantek (va 2 ); Pablo Mahave-Veglia (vc 3 ); Rachel Jensen (pn 4 ) CENTAUR CRC 3079 (76:10)

1,2,3 MAŠEK Oboe Quartets: in G; in C. Read more 1 TEML Fantasy and Rondo. SCHIFFAUER Fairy Tale about Love. ?OTEK Miniatures: selections. 1 FIALA Sonata in G. 4 KOHOUTEK Sonatina semplice. 4 KOZ?LUHA Adagio

Here is a fascinating compilation of oboe-centric chamber works by a combination of Czech and Moravian Classical and 20th-century composers. Of the lot, the only name familiar to me was that of Bohemian-born Josef Fiala (1748–1816), a distinguished oboist, viola da gamba virtuoso, cellist, and composer. Mozart was sufficiently impressed by Fiala’s talents to help him secure a position in Munich. Later, Fiala moved to Vienna, and then to St. Petersburg, where he found employment in the court of Catherine the Great. Following that appointment, he moved to Prussia, where he served as a gamba player in the court of Friedrich Wilhelm II. Fiala’s Sonata in G Major for Oboe and Violin heard here is a real charmer. You wouldn’t mistake it for either Mozart or Haydn—it’s not that advanced—but perhaps for a piece by Fiala’s near contemporary and Czech compatrtiot, Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760–1812). The concluding Rondo of Fiala’s three-movement sonata is especially engaging, sporting a recurring tune that will keep dancing in your head long after it has stopped playing.

The rest of the composers and their music on this disc are completely new to me, as I suspect they will be to most readers. Pavel Lambert Ma?ek (1761–1826) seems to have vanished from the scene virtually without a trace. Under the name Ma?ek, I found two CDs listed at ArkivMusic, but they contain works by a different Ma?ek, one Václav Vincenc (1755–1831) who, I’m guessing, may have been Pavel’s elder brother or perhaps a cousin.

Oboist Marlen Vav?íková tells us in her booklet notes that Pavel moved to Vienna in 1792, the same year Beethoven arrived there from Bonn. According to Vav?íková’s notes, Ma?ek enjoyed a successful career in Vienna for 34 years as a piano and composition teacher, and as a composer of two operas, six symphonies, six string quartets, a number of cantatas, songs, and a considerable volume of piano music.

Based on the evidence of Ma?ek’s two oboe quartets on this disc, I’d say that some enterprising record company could make a killing by engaging an orchestral and a chamber ensemble to dig up and record his works. Ma?ek’s music is not insignificant. You’re apt to do a double take when you hear the opening of his G-Major Oboe Quartet. The first bar and a half in the same 6/8 meter is a dead ringer for the opening of Mozart’s “Hunt” String Quartet, K 458. Ma?ek’s skill at working out his melodic and harmonic material is revealed in a particularly intensive development section where he puts his Mozart-echoing motive through its paces.

The companion C-Major Oboe Quartet illustrates another interesting aspect of Ma?ek’s compositional technique. Though the piece is called an oboe quartet because an oboe is substituted for what would ostensibly be the first violin in a string quartet, Ma?ek writes for the oboe and violin as if they were both first violins. Not only are the two parts equal in terms of highly virtuosic display passages, but they often flip positions so that each instrument crosses the range of the other to come out on top.

Ma?ek and Fiala represent the late 18th-, early 19-century contingent on the CD. Now we get into the 20th-century composers, which I’ll take in chronological order. Long-lived Lubomir Koželuha (1918–2008)—an expanded Internet biography gives his birth date as January 9, 1919, the least of the inconsistencies in the track listing’s birth and death dates—studied composition and conducting at the Brno Conservatory. The translation from Czech to English is a bit fractured, so I may be misinterpreting what it says, but if I understand it correctly, he dutifully served the Czech Communist regime, mainly teaching at state-approved institutions, conducting school choirs, and participating in a “survey” (read that “propagandizing”) of music textbooks. For his efforts, he was rewarded in 1974 with the position of “inspector” (read that “censor”) of the National Committee of Culture in Brno.

As a composer Koželuha focused mainly on vocal/choral music and opera, though he did write quite a few chamber and orchestral works as well. His five-minute Adagio for Oboe and Piano heard on the disc dates from 1985, but subsequently became the second movement of the composer’s Violin Sonata. It’s an atmospheric modal thing, reflecting Koželuha’s interest in Janá?ek and Moravian folk music.

Next up, chronologically, is Pavel ?otek (1922–2005). Once again, we have a discrepancy in the back-plate citations of birth and death dates, this one more serious. According to whoever compiled them, ?otek is still alive, for only his birth date is given. But a well-documented Internet biography states that he died in Olomouc on July 20, 2005. He studied at the Prague Conservatory and later at the Janá?ek Academy of Performing Arts in Brno. Like Koželuha, ?otek, to quote said source, was “strongly influenced by the then political reality,” a euphemism for “he was a mouthpiece for the Czech Communist regime.” After the 1989 Velvet Revolution, however, ?otek underwent a rehabilitation of sorts, rejecting his socialist realism style for a more 20th-century mainstream modernist stance. His output is not large, but it includes a number of orchestral and chamber works and, pre-1989, quite a few socialist realism-styled songs and choruses, one of them with the wonderfully Woody Allenesque title of Postcards from the Socialist City.

?otek’s Miniatures are essentially studies or exercises for solo oboe written at the request of oboe pedagogue Miroslav Ho?ek, who was seeking new pieces for his students. The pieces became mandatory repertoire for the Oboe Competition in Olomouc. The studies are arranged according to progressive difficulty and each is designed to exploit a specific playing technique. Of the nine pieces in total, oboist Marlen Vav?íková gives us eight of them, ending with the most difficult, the Rondino.

Ctirad Kohoutek (b.1929) had similar beginnings to Koželuha and ?otek. He studied at the Brno Conservatory and the Janá?ek Academy of Performing Arts. But then he decided to make camp with Ligeti, Lutos?awski, and the avant-garde’s dictator darling, Boulez—or as one wag put it, “Italy had Mussolini, Paris has Boulez.”

Kohoutek’s Sonatine semplice for oboe and piano was written in 1950. That had to have been before he fell in with the Darmstadt crowd, a surmise based on how pleasantly it falls on the ear. Not unlike other pieces on the disc, the sonatine is suggestive of Moravian folk song and dance without quoting any actual folk melodies.

Ji?í Teml (b.1935), given the evidence of his Fantasy and Rondo for oboe and violin on this program, is the CD’s sole authentic modernist, though I’d stop short of calling him avant-garde. One needs to be careful painting him with a broad brush, because the piece, written in 2006, is fairly recent. Not having heard anything else by him, I don’t know if it’s representative of his output as a whole or not. Apparently, he’s quite well known in the Czech Republic, having worked for over 20 years as a producer of classical-music programs for Czech Radio 3. Also a prolific composer, he has published a huge volume of works, including symphonies, concertos, chamber music, songs, choral works, children’s operas, and many pieces for piano and organ.

The Fantasy was written for the disc’s oboist, Marlen Vav?íková. The piece, as I indicated, is quite modernistic sounding, but it’s not of a mind that requires the oboist to blow through the opposite end of her instrument or the violinist to play pizzicato with his tongue. It’s actually a rather haunting mood piece, in turns austere and playful, and in its rondo movement abuzz with winged nocturnal insects. In Hindemithian vein, the piece ends with an abrupt, LOL major triad concordance.

Finally, we come to the latest-born, Edvard Schiffauer (b.1942), whose name doesn’t sound very Czech, but he is indeed a native son of Ostrava in the Czech Republic. Oddly, he is the one composer about whom I was able to find zilch of any value on the Internet. So I can’t tell you anything about his background or his output. One reference I did come across was in an article advertising the 2009 Prague International Music Festival, which noted that on the docket was an operatic work, Brenpartija , subtitled “Musical Scenes from a Slag Heap,” composed by Edvard Schiffauer. On this slight evidence, and my impression of the composer’s Fairy Tale about Love on the disc, I’d tend to classify Schiffauer as a dyed-in-the-wool avant-gardista as opposed to a more benign modernist like Teml.

The beginning of the piece reminds me a bit of the plaintive oboe solo at the beginning of the “Scène aux champs” movement in Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique , but Schiffauer soon proves his avant-garde bonafides with the obligatory wide interval leaps, tremolos, glissandos, peeps, squeaks, squawks, and bent microtonal pitches. It’s quite a technical tour de force , one that Vav?íková brings off to stutteringly stunning effect.

Vav?íková is master of all she has chosen to assay in this unusually interesting program. None of this music is familiar, and all of it sounds extremely technically challenging. Except in the Schiffauer, and then purposely so, no “ill wind” blows from Vav?íková’s instrument. Her purity of tone, accuracy of pitch, and breath control are exemplary. Her cohorts in this program, violinist Vít?zslav ?ernoch, violist Paul Swantek, cellist Pablo Mahave-Veglia, and pianist Rachel Jensen, are all superb. ?ernoch, in particular, should be singled out for his virtuosic partnering of Vav?íková in Ma?ek’s C-Major Oboe Quartet.

This is strongly recommended to all oboe fanciers and to anyone who has an interest in unfamiliar Czech repertoire.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Oboe Quartet in G major by Pavel Masek
Performer:  Pablo Mahave-Veglia (Cello), Paul Swantek (Viola), Vitezslav Cernoch (Violin),
Marlen Vavrikova (Oboe)
Date of Recording: 08/2008 
Venue:  Cook-DeWitt Center, Grand Valley State U 
Length: 8 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Fantazia & Rondo for oboe & violin by Jirí Teml
Performer:  Vitezslav Cernoch (Violin), Marlen Vavrikova (Oboe)
Written: 2006 
Date of Recording: 08/2008 
Venue:  Cook-DeWitt Center, Grand Valley State U 
Length: 7 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Pohádka o Lásce: Fantazie o Trech Cástech, for oboe (Fairytale about Love: A Fantasy in Three Parts) by Edvard Schiffauer
Performer:  Marlen Vavrikova (Oboe)
Written: 2004 
Date of Recording: 08/2008 
Venue:  Cook-DeWitt Center, Grand Valley State U 
Length: 10 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Oboe Quartet in C major by Pavel Masek
Performer:  Pablo Mahave-Veglia (Cello), Paul Swantek (Viola), Vitezslav Cernoch (Violin),
Marlen Vavrikova (Oboe)
Date of Recording: 08/2008 
Venue:  Cook-DeWitt Center, Grand Valley State U 
Length: 13 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Miniatures, for oboe by Pavel Cotek
Performer:  Marlen Vavrikova (Oboe)
Date of Recording: 08/2008 
Venue:  Cook-DeWitt Center, Grand Valley State U 
Length: 10 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Sonatina semplice, for oboe & piano by Ctirad Kohoutek
Performer:  Marlen Vavrikova (Oboe), Rachel Jensen (Piano)
Date of Recording: 05/2004 
Venue:  Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 
Length: 9 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Adagio, for oboe & piano by Lubomir Kozeluha
Performer:  Marlen Vavrikova (Oboe), Rachel Jensen (Piano)
Date of Recording: 05/2004 
Venue:  Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 
Length: 4 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Sonata in G major for oboe & violin by Joseph Fiala
Performer:  Vitezslav Cernoch (Violin), Marlen Vavrikova (Oboe)
Date of Recording: 08/2008 
Venue:  Cook-DeWitt Center, Grand Valley State U 
Length: 8 Minutes 7 Secs. 

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