Overtures, Marches and Waltzes
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Recorded 16 & 17 February 2015 in Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: July 2016
CD No: CHANDOS
CHSA 5158 [SACD]
Duration: 80 minutes
Prague-born Julius Ernst Wilhelm Fučík (1872-1916) knew how to write a seductive waltz or a rousing march; he could orchestrate, too, as the colours and details so vividly revealed here testify.
This tonic of a release, recorded with clarity and warmth, and played with excellence and enjoyment, includes…
Overtures – Marinarella opens in lively fashion and then tiptoes into our pleasure factor, before becoming fairytale-sinister and heartfelt-seductive, and finally a quick section is coloured by castanets. Miramare is vivacious if embracing an air of tragedy. Waltzes – The evocative Danube Legends sets sail delightfully, with infectious leaps, with darker threads informing Winter Storms (orchestrated by Pavel Staněk) and including a plaintive cello solo, an element of nostalgia and sweeping, grandly cheerful melodies. Little Ballerinas whirls along without a care in the world. Marches – all are foot-tapping gems, whether the exuberant Uncle Teddy, the purposefully striding Merry Blacksmiths (an anvil part of the scoring), the parading Entry of the Gladiators with its circus atmosphere, and Florentine brings a smile and cues a majestic melody. Hercegovac is a quickstep march with an oriental tinge, and Children of the Regiment has an infectious swing. Two further marches complete the disc: the bouncy Mississippi River and the get-up-and-go Under the Admiral’s Flag, the latter scored by Jerome Cohen.
There is also a Polka-comique, The Old Grumbler – featuring a growly bassoon (Fučík’s main instrument); good humour abounds and David Hubbard enters into the fun.
Fučík was a prolific and gifted composer (he studied with Dvořák) who wrote over four-hundred pieces – he may be compared in quality with Johann Strauss II and his brother Josef and also Sousa – and was in addition a conductor of military bands. Václav Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic should not be forgotten when considering Fučík’s hugely pleasing music, but there’s no doubting Neeme Järvi’s affectionate and spry conducting is cause to uncork the champagne.