Karel Husa - Orchestral Masterworks

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KAREL HUSA - Orchestral Masterworks - Kimcherie Lloyd (Conductor) - Paul York (Cello) - University of Louisville Symphony - 0884501620901 - Released: November 2011 - Ablaze AR00008

1- Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra
2- Pastorale for String Orchestra
3- Scenes from The Trojan Women

Compared to his compatriots, one could say that Czech-born composer Karel Husa (b 1921) has been unjustly ignored and neglected both on the concert stage and in the recording studio. Fringe labels like CRI, First Edition, Klavier were some of the few to produce some of his music. Ablaze Records have set out here to alter the balance by presenting not one, but two world premiere recordings of some of his important orchestral works.

The Cello Concerto, the recipient of the 1993 Grawemeyer Award, received its stage premiere in 1989 with cellist Lynn Harrell, the dedicatee of the work. It is a complex and troubled piece of music, including some of the most ominous opening pages I've ever heard. This is a composer whose writing is influenced more by the emotional content and impact of the music, rather than its techniques. The cello is often pushed to the limits of its highest register, and the orchestra is often pushed to its dramatic limits. Motifs pile up to form impressive climaxes accentuated by rhythmically propulsive percussion effects, as the cello seems to sing a great lament. It's also a piece that requires the use of various techniques and a wide range of emotional involvement on the part of the soloist, and cellist Paul York is readily glad to oblige.

The Pastorale for String Orchestra, an earlier composition, paints a very different picture. It instantly brings to mind similar works for string ensembles favored by 20th century British composers. Unlike the concerto, it is bereft of anxieties and presents a warmer, somewhat more bucolic side of life. Its harmonic language is far less evolved, and strives for sincere expression rather than fearsome declamations. Its simple beauty is very well brought to the fore by the University of Louisville Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Kimcherie Lloyd.

Ablaze Records is a relatively young recording label based in Australia and the U.S. dedicated to the recording, distribution and promotion of works by living composers. If this CD is any indication, they certainly are poised to not only fulfill that mandate, but to do it right.

Jean-Yves Duperron - January 2012