Great Conductors – Karel Ancerl

0 of 5 stars

Karel Ancerl
Dvorak, Janacek, Krejci, Mácha, Martinu, Novák, Smetana, Shostakovich
Recorded 1950-71

Reviewed by: Bill Newman

Reviewed: August 2002
CD No: IMG Artists CZS 5 75091 2 (2 CDs)

Karel Ancerl has the required panache that lends itself to repeat hearings. I am pleased in a way because some time back Libor Pesek told me of his music-making preferences towards others like Talich, Kosler and Belohlavek, regarding Ancerl as routine. I heartily disagreed, but Pesek and myself shared an immense liking for Charles Munch – which is food for thought in conjunction with this series.

Ancerl’s dramatic programme begins and ends with a bang! Shostakovich’s Festive Overture (Czech Philharmonic) pairs successfully with Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance in G minor, Op.46/8 (Vienna Symphony). The Czech players make marvellously persuasive inroads with Novak’s In the Tatra Mountains, with its beauteous landscape. Krejci’s (a kind of Czech Poulenc) Serenade for Orchestra, Janacek’s awesomely descriptive Taras Bulba and Mácha’s Variations on a Theme by and on the Death of Jan Rychlík – a prophetic, symbolic piece. The Rudolfinum (the home of the Czech Philharmonic) acoustics ring out resplendently in recordings made between 1950 and 1968.

The Musikverein is the setting for Smetana’s The Moldau – the river Vltava in all its changing currents and decorative scenic splendour (Vienna Symphony), while Dvorak’s Symphony No.8 in G (1970, Concertgebouw Orchestra) and Martinu’s Symphony No.5 (1971, Toronto Symphony) – both live – show the conductor’s natural flowing style. An overall grasp of musical essentials is a testament to Ancerl’s immediate flair of knowing exactly what was required from his wide range of repertoire.

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