Notes and Editorial Reviews
Another delightful find and a triumph for this advocate of rare Dvorák
Gerd Albrecht and his Cologne Radio forces have given us fine recordings of rare Dvorák works. Here they add one of the most delightful of all, an opera whose freshness, colour and unfailing lyricism should by rights make it a repertory work outside the Czech Republic as well as in, not just for opera companies of every kind but for music colleges and the like.
The King and the Charcoal Burner was the second opera that Dvorák wrote and the first to be staged. In its first form it was abandoned during rehearsal as being too complex and Wagnerian,
which led the composer to rewrite the piece completely, simplifying its textures and material. There followed two more versions which together form the basis of this version, recorded at concert performances in Cologne with an excellent cast of young Czech singers under Albrecht, an ever-sympathetic advocate.
The piece vies with Smetana’s The Bartered Bride in the freshness of its Czech flavours. This marked the emergence of Dvorák’s mature style, benefiting in this instance from his experience as a player in the opera orchestra in Prague. Very attractive it is, if without the sharp memorability of the Smetana’s most striking numbers. Well balanced sound with voices exceptionally clear, each of them well defined with clear diction.
Lívia Ághová in the soprano role of Liduska, the charcoal burner’s daughter, sings with beautiful, pure tone. She is first heard at her spinning-wheel, before the arrival of her lover, Jeník, sung with comparable purity by tenor Michal Lehotsky. The King, strongly sung by baritone Dalibor Jenis, lost in the forest in Act 1, is given shelter by the charcoal burner, Matej – Peter Mikulás in splendid voice. Though the King is attracted to the lovely Liduska, he recognises her genuine love for Jeník, and, after a test he devises for her, gives his blessing to their union amid general rejoicing. The chorus is a key element in the work, reflecting Dvorák’s original inspiration prompted by hearing Meistersinger, with the Prague Chamber Choir and the Radio Choir singing with crisp, fresh ensemble.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [6/2007]
Works on This Recording
King and charcoal burner, B 21 by Antonín Dvorák
Michal Lehotsky (Tenor),
Michelle Breedt (Mezzo Soprano),
Dalibor Jenis (Baritone),
Peter Mikulas (Bass),
Lívia Aghová (Soprano),
Markus Schäfer (Tenor),
Peter Mikulas (Baritone)
Prague Chamber Chorus,
Cologne West German Radio Chorus,
Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1887; Prague
Date of Recording: 2005
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