Fata Morgana: Songs by Pavel Haas
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Label: Resonus Classics
Cat No: RES10183
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 3rd March 2017
WorksChinese Songs, op.4
Fata Morgana, op.6
Songs in Folk Style (7), op.18
Songs on Chinese Poetry (4)
ArtistsAnita Watson (soprano)
Anna Starvshkevych (mezzo-soprano)
Nicky Spence (tenor)
James Platt (bass)
Lada Valesova (piano)
Pianist Lada Valešová is joined by an exceptional array of singers as well as the acclaimed Navarra Quartet in a vivid portrait of this neglected composer.
1Seven Songs in Folk Style, op.18: Coz je vic
2Seven Songs in Folk Style, op.18: Darek z lasky
3Seven Songs in Folk Style, op.18: Krotka holubicka
4Seven Songs in Folk Style, op.18: Zruseni slibu
5Seven Songs in Folk Style, op.18: Pripoved
6Seven Songs in Folk Style, op.18: Slzy a vzdychani
7Seven Songs in Folk Style, op.18: Statecny jonak
8Fata Morgana, op.6 - Rabindranath Thakur, Zahradnik, Part I: Kdyz sla kolem me rychlymi kroky
9Fata Morgana, op.6 - Rabindranath Thakur, Zahradnik, Part I: Noc je noc plneho maje
10Fata Morgana, op.6 - Rabindranath Thakur, Zahradnik, Part I: Me srdce ptak houstin
11Fata Morgana, op.6 - Rabindranath Thakur, Zahradnik, Part II: Ma mila, srdce me touzi
12Fata Morgana, op.6 - Rabindranath Thakur, Zahradnik, Part II: Jsi oblak vecerni
13Chinese Songs, op.4: Smutek
14Chinese Songs, op.4: Na rece Jo-Yeh
15Chinese Songs, op.4: Jarni dest
16Four Songs on Chinese Poetry: Zaslech jsem divoke husy...
17Four Songs on Chinese Poetry: V bambusovem haji
18Four Songs on Chinese Poetry: Daleko mesic je od domova
19Four Songs on Chinese Poetry: Probdena noc
Earliest are the Chinese Songs, op.4, of 1921, sensitively sung here by Ukrainian-born mezzo-soprano Anna Starushkevych, and they already demonstrate Haas’s gift for grateful vocal lines and finely-coloured accompaniments. These are reflective works, and Starushkevych captures their inwardness without sacrificing beauty of tone. The real discovery, however, comes with the two-part song cycle Fata Morgana, op.6 (1923), to five poems from Rabindranath Tagore’s The Gardener. Janáček had already set Tagore’s The Wandering Madman as a chorus in 1922, but Haas’s cycle, for the beguiling combination of tenor, piano and string quartet, is more redolent of the older composer’s Diary of One Who Disappeared. The extended instrumental interludes and string textures also bring to mind the musical expressionism of Schoenberg and Berg, and enhance the exotic aspect of the texts, which tell of the torments of love and desire and an ephemeral vision of a lost love. Tenor Nicky Spence is superb at conveying the heady sensuality and at times unbridled passion of the texts, while Valešová and the Navarra Quartet bring out the myriad colours of the score to perfection. This is Fata Morgana’s first commercial recording, and it is a major event, for this is a work that transcends the limits of the song-cycle genre and deserves the widest possible circulation.
The best part of two decades separates Fata Morgana from the Seven Songs in Folk Style, op.18, of 1940, yet you’d be hard pressed to detect that these later works were written after the Nazi occupation of the Czech lands. The settings of F.L. Čelakovský’s folk poetry paraphrases have a wonderfully carefree feel to them, but the maturity of the compositions is evident in the extensive and powerfully evocative piano interludes and postludes. Haas had a talent for imbuing such passages with poetic import, and he also had a gift for effectively deployed pungent harmonies and intensifying ostinato patterns which raise these delightful pieces above the folk genre they notionally inhabit. Soprano Anita Watson has exactly the right vocal qualities to bring out the music's folk flavours while adding an extra expressive edge: her voice is redolent of some of the best Czech sopranos here, a tribute to Valešová's coaching.
Latest of all – and, in fact, Haas’s last surviving work – is the Four Songs on Chinese Poetry, already familiar in several other recordings, but here lent extra weight by James Platt's darkly-hued bass voice. Both the poems and the settings themselves alternate between the intense introspection of the exile longing for home and a devil-may-care exuberance which is especially affecting. The hypnotically mysterious chords that introduce the final song are but one instance of Haas’s genius as a song composer, in a work that ends (at least on the surface) in high spirits. Yet dip into any of these cycles at just about any point and the listener will detect a similar genius at work. Had he lived, Haas would surely have been the leading Czech composer of the post-war years. This splendid collection, graced by excellent notes from Haas expert Martin Čura and with full texts and translations, does him a handsome service.
Europadisc Disc of the Year for 2017!
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