Every true believer in the music of Czech nationalist composer Bedrich Smetana will have to check out this three-disc set of his orchestral works with Vladimir Válek leading the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. Not only does it contain Smetana's orchestral masterpiece Má Vlast plus his three fairly well-known tone poems Richard III, Wallenstein's Campo, and Hakon Jarl, it also contains his nearly completely unknown four-movement Triumph Symphony, his almost totally unknown March for Shakespeare, and the Ceremonial Prelude in C major along with three short orchestral dances, the Georginen, the Louisen, and the Our Lasses Polkas.
Czech quarter: two classics, a rarity and a treasure as dear to Nicolas Derny as to Georges Zeisel: the terrible Quartet "From my life" by young Vlach, LP Electrola unpublished on CD.
James Levine's viennese recording of Smetana's famed masterpiece is one of the best performances of the work around today. With clear, full-bodied digital recording and ripe, rich and opulent playing from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, it presents a performance that is as comporable to Kubelik as any other. Despite Levine's roots in the theatre (Metropolitan Opera), he manages to grasp a clear sense of drama in the work, and while some might argue that he is mainly concerned with orchestral effect for its own sake, he certainly does not do this but presents every minute detail in this musical kaliedascopic picture.
A second new album this year from the much-fêted Takács Quartet presents three popular string quartets from Czechoslovakia. Janáček’s two quartets share with Smetana’s No 1 narrative undercurrents, and draw from our four players performances of gripping engagement.
This MET production of Bedrich Semtana's classic folk opera boasts a superb cast, including Nicolai Gedda, Jon Vickers, Teresa Stratas, and Martti Talvela. The staging and mis-en-scene is traditional and very well done. Everyone seems to be enjoying this presentation. Although not to the same standard as today's HD productions, this is still a wonderful way to get to know this delightful opera.