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Pohádka – Tales from Prague to Budapest

Laura van der Heijden (cello), Jâms Coleman (piano) (Chandos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
CHAN20227_Pohadka

Pohádka – Tales from Prague to Budapest
Janáček: Pohádka (Fairy Tale); Violin Sonata (arr. for cello); Kodály: Cello Sonata, Op. 4; Sonatina etc; plus pieces by Dvorˇák, Kaprálová and Mihály
Laura van der Heijden (cello), Jâms Coleman (piano)
Chandos CHAN 20227   76:06 mins

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The starting point for this delicious and distinctive Bohemian programme was Janáček’s Pohádka (1910): too often a make-weight, it’s in fact an 11-minute opera, a musical nutriball of song, dance, poetry and drama. Laura van der Heijden and Jâms Coleman unleash its power in this big-boned reading, with its hair-trigger transitions from dreaming innocence to cataclysm. Janáček’s Violin Sonata (1914) is yet more volatile and stark. In her arrangement, Van der Heijden has replaced the violin’s thrilling screams (its connections to Kát’a Kabanová are strong) for the cello’s warmer, though less idiomatic, embrace; but in the Allegretto’s scything scales and explosive motifs of the Subito, the instrument brings heft and higher-voltage ferocity. Coleman offers tumult and transparency.

If Janáček is the fire that lit the programme, Kodály’s works for cello offer kinship and contrast. It’s a treat to hear his too-rarely performed Sonata Op. 4 (1910), with its opening homage to Beethoven’s Sonata No. 3 refracted through modal harmony. These performers bring sonorous depth and mystery to its long-limbed first movement, and spritely wit to its dancing finale. It’s a fine example of the synthesis Kodály created between Hungarian rhythms and modes and the influence of Debussy, but Beethoven is a strong presence in the instrumental interplay. Here, too, is the strange Sonatina (1909), which feels like an improvisatory premonition of the Sonata.

Amidst the song arrangements, Kodály’s shimmering, epigrammatic ‘Slender is the silk thread’ stands out, and Vitěszla Kaprálová’s ‘Navždy’ which breathes the mystical air of Messiaen with the voluptuousness of Franck: what a loss she was to European music.

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Helen Wallace