Miloslav Kabeláč, although unknown to many, was one of the greatest Czech composers of the 20th century and I am confident that this post will confirm and convince you of this if you are unfamiliar with his work. This disc is possibly my favorite recording of Kabeláč's music and his Symphony No. 4 would be worth the price of admission if it was the lone offering on this treasure chest release. Kabelác wrote a total of eight symphonies and just this year Supraphon released a set of all eight symphonies....I haven't the $$ to add it to my collection at the moment but hopefully soon. This is a an important and substantial survey by one of the great Czech symphonists. I cannot wait to listen to those fresh digital performances!!)
Miloslav Kabeláč (August 1st 1908 - September 17th 1979) was badly shaken by the nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in March of 1939. The young composer who had already won recognition for his originality, felt the urge to react to the tragic event in his own way. He contemplated the idea for some time and, later that year on October 27th, the eve of the anniversary of the creation of Czechoslovakia, completed the score for the cantata "Do Not Retreat!" which is his Opus 7. (He later recalled that he had hurried to finish it for that particular occasion)
For his cantata, the composer selected from Karel Jaromir Erben's (1811 - 1870) collection 'Bohemian Folk Songs and Nursery Rhymes', with which he was familiar, the texts of several folk songs from the time of the Prussian invasions of Bohemia in the mid-18th century. The cantata closes with the trumpets playing the melody of the famous 15th century Hussite chorale "Ye Who are God's Warriors", with the male chorus singing in counterpoint the text of the second strophe of the chorale: "Do not be frightened by your enemies" (Kabeláč replaced the words "do not flee" which appear in the earliest version of the chorale as recorded in the Jistebnice Hymnbook with "do not retreat" which better suited his purpose). The male chorus is joined in the cantata by brass, winds and a large group of percussion instruments (which was to be of great importance later on for the composer). The cantata belongs to the most personal and most effective of Kabeláč's works, and is a genuine tour de force by the young composer. "Do Not Retreat!" was first performed by with the composer conducting after the war, on the occasion of the presidential election of Edvard Beneš on October 28th of 1945. The autograph of the score is dedicated "To the Czech people".
Kabeláč's eight symphonies hold a significant place among his oeuvre. The first, for strings and percussion, was completed in the spring of 1942, and the last (Symphony No. 8) during the summer of 1970. The fact that each is written for a different combination (No. 8 is scored for solo soprano, mixed chorus, percussion and organ for example) is somewhat unusual, even by 20th century standards. Symphony No. 4 in A major, "Camerata" his opus 36, was completed in 1958 and written for the Prague Chamber Orchestra who also perform it here. Symphony No. 4 is a major and powerful work that Shostakovich would surely have been fond of. The hardbitten determined first movement is a Grave with an indomitable Shostakovich-like forward pulse and a magnetic pull toward tragedy. This contrasts with a busy and antiphonally echoing Presto. After this effervescence we come to a depressive Lento from which vivid colours have been leached. Themes and colours conspire to achieve complete consistency of statement and atmosphere. The finale is a whirling dance but its Kodaly-style exuberance is shot through with a ruthless impulse and crushing energy.
The symphony was recorded in 1960 and thus benefits from stereo sound unlike the slightly older mono recordings (still quite fine) of the cantata and the lovely, chromatically lush "Six Cradle-songs"(written during his younger years. Kabeláč was enchanted by folk songs, and like Dvorák or Martinů, he often composed to their lovely poetic texts).
Once again I will have to finish this post at another time, so as to get the actual music to you all :)