Dvořák: American Suite, etc; Smetana: Má vlast; Suk: Summer Impressions (all works arr. solo harp)
Jana Boušková (harp)
Supraphon SU42922 78:25 mins
Few musical sounds are more likely to move the Czech heart than the opening of Smetana’s My Country: sweeping harp chords initiating six symphonic poems celebrating the history, mythology and landscape of Bohemia. Jana Boušková presents the first three symphonic poems in arrangements partly based on those of the 19th-century Czech composer and harpist, Hanuš Trneček. Boušková adds ear-catching and idiomatic ornamentation which in the case of the ever-popular ‘Vltava’ is surprisingly effective. A major problem, however, is the instrument’s limited dynamic range that simply cannot match Smetana’s broad orchestral palette and leads to an undermining of the superb structural logic of ‘Vyšehrad’ (The High Castle) in particular.
Much more successful are the arrangements for harp of works for the piano, Dvořák’s American Suite and Suk’s Summer Impressions. Dvořák’s liking for arpeggio figuration suits the harp well, and the subtle tone of the instrument brings out the near-impressionist qualities in Suk’s delightful miniatures. In both cases the harp versions are not only plausible but charming. Jana Boušková, unquestionably a fine player, brings passion and flare to these well-recorded performances. This is certainly a recording for the harp aficionado.