Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Bedrich Smetana, Zdenek Macal, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra|
Bedrich Smetana: Ma Vlast (My Country)
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4.5 stars -- ranks with the best
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 07/25/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At least one major American publication of music criticism, American Record Guide, considers the Zdenek Macal-Milaukee Symphony Orchestra collaboration on Smetana's "Ma Vlast" the best performance currently available to buyers. And, since 2010, one European publication of music criticism -- The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music 2010: The Key Classical Recordings on CD, DVD and SACD -- also considers this the "best recording" available to buyers of Bedrich Smetana's evergreen ptriotic suite of Czech music known as Ma Vlast or my homeland.
One listen to this remarkable performance tells you why they think this: Macal, a native of Brno, Czech Republic, leads an authoritative reading in good modern sound with a middle level American orchestra. What separates Macal's translation of Smetana's national language is the way he caresses the more musical and gentle phrases throughout, while still adhering to the big orchestral requirements of Slaivc nationalism that excite listeners during the "Sarka", "Tabor" and "Blanik" sections.
Indeed, it is Macal's leadership during Sarka -- a cinematic and episodic view of a young girl that swore vengeance on all men because of her oppression -- that characterizes his handling of this musical drama. Macal's description of Sarka, enthusiastically realized and avowed by the Milwaukee players, is at once simultaneously powerful, loving and fearful. Meanwhile, the idyllic poetry that begins "Blanik" is delivered wonderfully by Macal whose later attention to the martial, national conclusion is equally magnificent.
I thought this CD started out a little slowly in the two familiar tone poems that begin the sextet; but it picked up dramatically in the bigger, bolder sections and, by the end of the program, completely convinced me. I would rank this reading up there with either of Kubelik's later stereo versions, with the Czech Philharmonic and Boston Symphony orchestras, and better than most renderings I've heard because of Macal's sensitivity to the changing shades of drama and poetry -- especially the poetry -- that are inherent throughout the score. These endearing and frightening pictures of his homeland are transferred to our ears with rapt attention to modest alterations in tempo and dynmaics. Kubelik's first recording, the mono version on Mercury with Chicago Symphony Orchestra Smetana: Má Vlast, still reigns supreme for me but this one is the best stereo version I've heard.
Good notes on the meaning of the music and a brief bio of conductor and orchestra round out a good package. While the Milwaukee Symphony's strings and brass will never be a match for Philadelphia and Chicago, respectively, they play their hearts out for their music director in this recording, which is captured in closely detailed stereo at the top of our standard for 2007.
It's rare I am this convinced about a recording and this one is a contender among the better "Ma Vlast" renditions out there. For the modest asking price through Amazon and its vendors (there were several used versions available for one cent each when I wrote this), no one with any interest should hesitate. While Macal doesn't play up the dramatic moments quite like Kubelik did in Chicago, this recording is a winner that portrays the poetic and singing sections better than any other I've heard."
Sarah Bellum | Dublin, OH United States | 08/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"(4.5/5 stars) I agree with other reviewers that this recording sounds wonderful. The piece itself is one of my favorites. Smetana practically redefines "patriotism" with this powerful love song to his fatherland. While I have never ridden on the Moldau, Macal and the Milwaukee Symphony certainly provide the turbulence necessary to experience it with this digital recording. An essential piece of music and a thoroughly decent recording."
Fine Ma Vlast
Gregory M. Zinkl | Chicago, IL | 04/03/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I hate to say it, but for me, Kubelik owns this piece, especially his Czech Phil recording on Supraphon (digital, too).That said, however, Telarc has done us a favor by bringing to the fore these excellent forces and Macal's idiomatic conducting. The engineering, too, is better than Kubelik's Supraphon recording--there is more aural depth. I do find the "highs" to be a little bit much for me, but hardly anything that should deter the interested buyer.The Milwaukee orchestra is a fine one, and while the strings are very sweet, I do hear some strain (are there enough violins?) that can sometimes be tiring, especially since Macal makes such demands.Overall, though, an excellent addition to the discography."