"Little Pearls of Czech Classics"
"Little Pearls of Czech Classics" is a delightful compilation of recordings made in 1983 by the famed Czech orchestra under Václav Neumann. Music ranges from the vigorous (Florentine March, Bartered Bride Dance) to the serenely beautiful ( Fibich Poem, Dvorák's familiar Humoresque and Suk's Festival March). For me the real "pearl" here is the exquisite Valse Triste by Oskar Nedbal (1874-1930) who once was conductor of the CPO. The CD booklet doesn't let us know that this is taken from a scene in his ballet The Tale of Simple Johnny in which the Princess is to be delivered to the Dragon. Nedbal wrote the tune while on the train enroute to Vienna, where Gustav Mahler had accepted the ballet for staging. It is positively enchanting music, and beautifully played here.
The overture to Smetana's seldom-heard opera The Kiss is one of his less memorable works, and Novák's "Amorous Couple" from his Slovak Suite is a very subdued love scene. There are many other "pearls" that might have been more appropriateand one or two more easily could have been accommodated on this CD. A few of the selectionsincluding Valse Tristewere previously issued on Supraphon with Václav Smetácek and the Prague Symphony, a CD called "Small Czech Musical Gems"( DC 8064), long out-of-print, so this budget-priced CD is welcome indeed. Sound is typical of Supraphon at the time, clear, a bit steely for the strings, and resonant. There is only one page of CD notes, but they are in three languages. But nowhere in the notes will you find track listings for the music, or timings; for that you must look at the back of the jewel box.
R.E.B. (April 2000)