Reicha: Lenore

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LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: Lenore
PERFORMER: Vladimír Doležal (tenor), Magdaléna Hajóssyová, Venceslava Hrubá-Freiberger (soprano), Pavel Kamas (bass); Czech Philharmonic Chorus, Prague CO/Lubomír Mátl
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3522-2 Reissue (1986)
Beethoven’s Czech friend and contemporary Anton Reicha was a thoroughly fascinating musical phenomenon. A formidable theorist, who anticipated some key observations by Czerny, and an important teacher who counted Berlioz, Franck, Gounod and Liszt among his pupils, Reicha was also a prolific and adventurous composer who thought nothing of writing fugues with five quavers to the bar or penning some of the most extraordinary harmonies of the era. His ‘grand musical tableau’ Lenore, for soloists, chorus and orchestra, not to mention mime artists and dancers, is wonderful hokum – a kind of early Romantic music-theatre piece. Its grotesque subject – a despairing maiden swept away by her ghostly lover – has much in common with Dvorák’s Spectre’s Bride. Musically it ranges from the routine to the startlingly imaginative, clearly anticipating Berlioz. The performance creaks at times and none of the soloists is outstanding, but in general this is a creditable account of a virtually unknown work. Jan Smaczny