Jan Bartos recording

Kabeláč: Eight Preludes, Motifs from Exotic Lands – Smetana: Dreams review on The Art Desk | Jan Bartoš

Our Jan Bartoš received a very positive review regarding his album “Kabeláč: Eight Preludes, Motifs from Exotic Lands - Smetana: Dreams” (published by Supraphon) in the British art magazine “The Arts Desk”.

“Anyone interested in 20th century music should investigate Supraphon’s box set of Miloslav Kabeláč’s eight symphonies. When you've done that, get hold of pianist Jan Bartoš's engrossing recital disc. Kabeláč’s relationship with the communist regime in post-war Czechoslovakia was often strained, though things improved after Stalin’s death. He was fascinated by cosmology (“…everything in the world and the universe has a centre around which it revolves…”) and his music, though often dissonant, is invariably rooted in tonality. Kabeláč’s Eight Preludes for Piano were premiered in 1957 and have an otherworldly feel. The “Preludio ostinato” sounds simultaneously hopeful and resigned, the opening bars’ upward trajectory running out of steam. No. 3, “Prelude sognante” suggests a glimpse of the world through half-closed eyes, the mood shattered by a thunderous “Prelude corale”. They’re terrific little pieces, wonderfully played here by Jan Bartoš. Listen to how he nails the closing prelude’s fierce, defiant coda.

Equally fascinating is Kabeláč’s Motifs from Exotic Lands from 1958-9: 10 glimpses of what we’d now call "world music", filtered through his compositional sensibilities. Bartos’s booklet essay includes Kabeláč’s recollection of discovering non-western music (“a literally shocking experience… for a person trained solely in European music, a revelation…”. I’ve had the “Javanese Motif” on repeat in recent months, and a sparely harmonised East Asian flute improvisation is haunting. Presumably Kabeláč had to rely on recordings as source material, the set including Brazilian, Middle Eastern and Inuit themes. That Kabeláč especially loved Indian and Japanese music, lecturing on both, makes you warm to him even more. Smetana’s Dreams makes for an appealing filler, a set of six nostalgic “morceaux caractéristiques”. “In the Salon” is fun, Bartos’s tempo ebbing and flowing as if he’s conversing with assorted acquaintances. His “By the castle” is imposing, and Smetana’s take on Bohemian folk festivities is great fun. A remarkable disc, all three performances captured live in exemplary sound.”

Graham Rickson