in chronological order (the latest review at the top)

Forever Kapralova: Vitezslava Kapralova Songs (Supraphon).
A generous offering of 28 songs by composer and conductor Vitezslava Kapralova make their audio recording debut on the compact disc entitled "Forever Kapralova: Vítezslava Kapralova Songs," featuring Dana Buresova, soprano; Timothy Cheek, piano; Magda Caslavova, flute; and members of the Herold Quartet: Petr Zdvihal and Jan Valta, violins; David Havelik, cello. Also included is a detailed and expertly written commentary by Timothy Cheek, one of the world's foremost authorities on Kapralova's music and life. The songs are sung in the original Czech, with translations provided in English, German and French.
The songs featured on this recording represent all but five of Kapralova's total song output. They are set to the poetry of eleven Czech poets, nine of whom were her contemporaries, the other two having lived in the 17th and 19th centuries. The poet represented most frequently is Jaroslav Seifert (1901-86), winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1984, to whose poetry Kapralova composed six songs.
Kapralova was born in what is now the Czech Republic in 1915 and died in France in 1940; her compositions were celebrated to critical acclaim during her lifetime. Her death brought to a premature close the brief 16-year compositional life of one of the finest composers of the 20th century.
Kapralova was active during a period when it was difficult for a female composer to earn respect, and perhaps even more difficult for a composer to distinguish herself via songwriting. She engaged in song composition throughout her compositional life, even referring to it as her "biggest love." In addition to her contributions to the solo vocal repertoire, she also composed pieces for solo piano, piano with various instruments, chamber ensembles, chamber orchestra, symphony orchestra, piano and orchestra, chorus, and incidental music for stage, film and radio. We need to remember that Kapralova was a first-rate composer by the time she was 17 years old, blessed with a special gift as a superb musical craftsman.
Soprano Dana Buresova, a leading soloist at the National Theatre in Prague, has a voice that is clear and pure, reminiscent of Dawn Upshaw. Despite the demands of the Czech language with its many consonants, Buresova always manages to sing forward-placed and focused vowels, expertly and lovingly trundled by groups of consonants. Like Polish, Czech consonants are numerous but not harsh. Most difficult for non-native speakers attempting Slavic vocal literature is the ability to effortlessly form the correct groups of consonant sounds and acquire a softness and roundness in their execution. Buresova provides us with a crash course in Czech lyric vocal diction that every student of Slavic art song literature should listen to carefully. Listeners will also delight in Buresova's ability to sing in the dead center of the pitch on every single note of every song. Her vibrato is even, although she tends to suppress it unnecessarily from time to time.
It is difficult to imagine a better interpretation from the keyboard of Kapralova's songs than that of distinguished pianist Timothy Cheek. From the opening measures of the first track to the last notes of the final song, Cheek's performance is flawless. He is a collaborative partner par excellence, supporting the vocal line when required and expertly executing the demands of Kapralova's keyboard requirements with an array of color and artistic intelligence befitting this exceptional composer. I quite agree with Cheek in his commentary that Kapralova's finest songs stand in their own right "alongside those of Wolf, Debussy, and others who, like her, were able to achieve a true marriage of poetry and music."
Included in the collection of songs is the well-played though short (1:11) interlude for solo piano Posmrtna variace (Posthumous variation) based on the folk song Tatícku stary nas (Our old dad). It is dedicated to the memory of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937), the first president of Czechoslovakia. The song is apparently so associated with Masaryk that it has attained the level of an anthem.
This CD represents a huge effort on the part of Buresova and Cheek. Their work and dedication to this project is a demonstration of the highest artistic standard in the genre of Czech art song repertoire and rates as one of the best CDs in the genre of 20th century art song repertoire recordings. The opening measures of any track on "Forever Kapralova" will win over a new generation of collaborative artists and listening audiences alike in search of beautiful, excellent and accessible recital repertoire. The CD was produced with the financial support of the Kapralova Society and the University of Michigan.
Review by Laura Grazyna Kafka for IAWM Journal, 2 (Fall 2004). Reprinted by permission.

Vitezslava KAPRALOVA: Portrait of the Composer.
After the wonderful Supraphon disc of music by Kapralova, it is a pleasure to report further riches. This time the issuing company is Studio Matous, another Czech label (www.matous.cz). The presence of some orchestral and concertante music is welcome on a disc that also includes one of her major compositional statements, the excellent String Quartet of 1935.
First, the single movement Military Sinfonietta, so-called because of the nature of its themes. If Janacek is present in the background of the very opening, he is soon dispelled. This is eminently jolly music, written by a firm compositional hand that guides a fertile imagination. Particularly notable is the transparency of the orchestration (superbly realised here by the Czech Symphony Orchestra).
The String Quartet is, if anything, an even finer piece; in my estimation the best work on the disc. It was inspired by feelings of elation on graduating from her Conservatoire. The very first entry sounds as if it is slightly shortened by an error of editing, but that aside this is a fine recording. The atmosphere here is more intense than in the Military Sinfonietta, achieving almost a Bergian sense of flow (just missing that final feeling of harmonic/motivic freedom so characteristic of Berg). The Lento second movement begins with a cello soliloquy before an ultra-high violin enters. The sorrowful lines are well presented, contrasting with the tripping-along nature of the Vivo finale. Contrast is marked here, as in the interior passage around 3'30 and the spiky, more obviously modern passage slightly later on.
The Dubnova preludia (April Preludes) for solo piano are, as the booklet note promises, supremely pianistic. It is the second that seems most filled with hope of Spring, while for the third, the indicator 'semplice' is the watchword. The finale is the most spiky, almost in the manner of a Czech Stravinsky. Jaroslav Smykal plays with laudable textural clarity. Only the recording is really open to adverse criticism here, on the dry side and lacking lower-range depth.
Kapralova studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Charles Munch, and also became a pupil of Martinu's. Indeed Martinu was a major influence in her life, so it is appropriate that here we have two settings of Frantisek Susil 's poem, Koleda milostna (Love Carol). A pity that text only is given by Studio Matous, but there is no missing the effectiveness of Martinu's assured and simple response. Lenka Skornickova sings beautifully. Her voice is pure (very little vibrato) and fresh-sounding. Kapralova's response to Susil's text is spikier and certainly more cheeky.
Ritornell for cello and piano was Kapralova's last completed composition. A dry acoustic again does not help matters, but there is no doubting the work' s appeal and no doubting either the technical competence of cellist Ivan Merka.
Neo-classic is the term that springs straight to mind when confronted with the Partita, Op. 20, for string orchestra and piano. The piano is recorded closely, but mercifully Jiri Skovajsa does not bang. In fact, he has a most appealing staccato. There is a feeling of Bartok about much of the first movement. The hypnotic Andantino is marvellously expressive, contrasting with the acidic harmonies of the witty concluding Presto.
Waving Farewell closes the disc - a more fitting title would be hard to find. This is a 1937 setting for voice and orchestra of a poem by Vitezslav Nezval. The tenor soloist, Vilem Pribyl, is unconvincing though. He seems unsure of where the line is going and his voice is forced. The work itself is effective, but some slight reshuffling of tracks would have ensured a more lasting impression for this disc. Nevertheless, this is an essential supplement to the Supraphon disc mentioned above. Do try to search it out.
These are mostly Czech Radio recordings, from Brno. There is a countryman's dedication that shines through all the performances.
Review by Colin Clarke for MusicWeb.uk, November 2004. Reprinted by permission.

Baletni vecer uctil mistry. Baletnim vecerem na hudbu ceskych skladatelu se k letosnimu Roku ceske hudby pripojil i balet Narodniho divadla v Brne premierou v patek 19. listopadu 2004 v Janackove divadle. Dramaturgie nesla cestou overenou; do tri dejstvi volila vybrane skladby Bohuslava Martinu, Vitezslavy Kapralove, Antonina Dvoraka a Leose Janacka pro tanec neurcene a zatim take neztvarnene. Zejmena uvedeni Partity brnenske rodacky Kapralove bylo cinem pozoruhodnym a zasluznym. Jeho choreografie se po delsi dobe ujal sef baletu a reditel divadla Zdenek Prokes. [...] Zdenek Prokes pojal Kapralove Partitu humorne. Vnesl do jinak dosti vazneho vecera jiskru a odlehceni. Protivaha realneho sveta unaveneho manzelstvi ke snum muze o petici "onacejsich" zen se projevila jako mozna a scenicky zajimava. Dala navic uplatneni patnacti tanecnicim, ktere spolu s Martinem Zakem a Evou Seneklovou Partitu vytvareji.
From a review by Libuse Zborilova for Rovnost, 23.11.2004.

Forever Kapralova. Vitezslava Kapralova: Songs
Dass Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-1940) eines der bemerkenswertesten Talente in Komposition und Dirigieren war, die sich Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts am musikalischen Himmel zeigten, bedarf keiner ausfuhrlichen Erlauterung mehr. Dennoch ist man jedes Mal erstaunt, wenn Neuerscheinungen mit ihren Werken herauskommen. Grandios, eigenwillig, unverwechselbar - zahlreiche Epitheta fließen dann wie von selbst in die Zeilen. So auch hier. [...] Man kann es nicht oft genug betonen: Kapralova war so etwas wie "Reifezeit" in ihrem kurzen Leben nicht vergönnt. Beim Hören ihrer Stucke vergisst man das allzu schnell. Farbig, weit differenziert im Ausdruck, unglaublich sicher in der Beherrschung moderner tonaler Mittel und trotzdem erscheint hinter dem selbstverdstandlich genutzten Handwerk immer eine vitale musikalische Ursprunglichkeit. [..] Die meisten der verwendeten Dichtungen sind poetische Kunstwerke eigenen Rangs. Insgesamt dominieren die gedeckten Stimmungen; Nachdenklichkeit, Melancholie oder sogar Traurigkeit herrschen vor. Naturlich hat das Auswirkungen auf den musikalischen Tonfall, der alles andere als uberschwanglich ist. Der Pianist der Aufnahme ruckt in seinem instruktiven und ausfuhrlichen Booklet-Text den Stil einiger Lieder in die Nahe des Impressionismus, was allerdings nur eine sehr unscharfe Vorstellung vermittelt. Vielmehr liegt bei Kapralova der Glucksfall einer Komponistin mit einer wirklich eigenen Stimme vor, was es wiederum sehr erleichtert, ihre Lieder mit den Werken des bereits eingenfuhrten Repertoires zu kombinieren. [..]
From a review by Ricarda Dietz, for VivaVoce 68 (2004): 32.

Tschechische Musik 2004: Vergessenes und Wiedergehörtes.
Die Tschechen sagen: Ohne Smetana kann der Fruhling in Prag nicht beginnen. [...] Neben ihm feiert das neue EU-Mitglied mehr als 60 Jubilaen herausragender Komponisten, Interpreten und Institutionen, was die Regierung dazu veranlasste ein „Jahr der tschechischen Musik" auszurufen. Im Mittelpunkt der Feierlichkeiten steht das „Dreigestirn" tschechischer Musik: Smetana, Dvorak (100. Todestag) und Janacek (150. Geburtstag), erganzt durch Bohuslav Martinu (45. Todestag). […] Eine jungst entdeckte Komponistin steht im Schatten all dieser Feierlichkeiten: Vítezslava Kapralova. Die Muse und Schulerin Bohuslav Martinus, die 1940 mit nur 25 Jahren an Tuberkulose verstarb, wurde bis vor kurzem als Fußnote der tschechischen Musik gehandelt. Jetzt beweist eine Neuerscheinung mit einer nahezu kompletten Gesamteinspielung ihrer Lieder ihre große Bedeutung als fantasievolle Grenzgangerin zwischen subtilem Impressionismus und Fruhexpressionismus. Hinter ihrem klangorientierten lyrischen Stil, der in revolutionare harmonische Welten vordringt und Text und Melodie zu einer Einheit verschmilzt darf man zu Recht ein zu fruh verstorbenes Genie vermuten. Kapralova, die Meisterin der leisen melancholischen Töne, verdient ebenso wie viele andere Komponisten in diesem Jahr der Impulse fur die tschechische Musik größere Beachtung.
From an unpublished review by Eckehard Pistrick. Reprinted by permission.

Madtown Sounds: Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society
The one-of-a-kind chamber music series put on this summer by the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society featured three concerts of music by Czech composers. The performances were superb: top-notch musicians playing with palpable excitement and enthusiasm. [...] I also appreciated the introduction to some of the works of Vitezslava Kapralova, the brilliant young composer who died from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-five shortly after fleeing Paris in advance of the Nazi invasion. The year before she died, she wrote a work for violin and piano titled "In Memoriam", subsequently retitled "Elegie", in remembrance of Karel Capek, who had died the previous year. The "Elegie" is a short piece, but more than elegiac; the emotions the performance evoked for me were a wrenching combination of sadness and anger at the loss of Capek. I could not imagine a more appropriate tribute to Capek...or to Kapralova, for that matter.
From a review for Bookish Gardener, August 15, 2004.

Czech out fun Bach society's delights
Martinu, Svoboda, Kapralova, Dvorak
Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, Madison's summer chamber music frolic, started its three-week run with more than its usual bang Friday, creating a program that defies even this group's sense of "Czechs" and balances. [...] "Local Czechs Only", the title of Friday's selection of compositions from primarily 20th century Czech composers who emigrated to the United States or died trying, offers four selections over two hours. It's truly hard to pick a favorite from among the evening's offerings. [...] Vitezslava Kapralova's "Elegie for violin and piano" was as painfully short as it was emotional. Violinist Frank Almond's execution of the elegy, written one year prior to the composer's own death from tuberculosis at age 25, sears the nerves with raw emotion. The unusual inclusion brought an interesting addition to the program.
From a review by Michael Muckian for The Capital Times, July 24, 2004.

Von, aber nicht nur fur Frauen.
Die tschechische Komponistin Vitezslava Kapralova hinterliess 1940 mit nur 25 Jahren ein reichhaltiges Oeuvre. Ihr einziges Streichquartett entstand 1935 in Prag. Die Komponistin verarbeitet darin mahrische Melodien; sie zerlegt diese in kleinste Zellen, um jene zu drei ausserst dichten und vielschichtigen Satzen zu verweben. Das Werk stellt mit seinem standig wechselnden Klangcharakter hohe Anspruche an die Ausfuhrenden.
From a review signed by initials (bes) for e-Bund, July 2004.

Kapralova. Songs. Dana Buresova (soprano), Timothy Cheek (piano), Magda Caslavova (flute), Herold Quartet. Supraphon SU3752-2. 70:13 min.
This disc must contain some of the most purely beautiful music I have heard in a long while. Viteslava Kapralova had a cruelly short life (she died age 25 of tuberculosis) and one is left wondering just what she might have achieved if she had been granted a longer stay. All credit to Supraphon for furnishing us with a beautifully-produced disc of some sensuous gems. This includes an interesting essay by the pianist here (Timothy Cheek) and full texts and multi-lingual translations.
Cheek suggests that Kapralova’s songs can stand alongside those by Wolf and Debussy and that they achieve ‘a true marriage of music and words’. Certainly Kapralova shows great sensitivity when it comes to choice of poets, for the very poems themselves are of the highest beauty. It takes a major talent to do poetry that already stands so strongly on its own justice, and that is exactly what Kapralova achieves.
Pupil of Vitezslav Novak, Zdenek Chalabala, Vaclav Talich, Charles Munch, Bohuslav Martinu and Nadia Boulanger (quite a roster!), Kapralova’s music remains individual, despite the occasional nod in the direction of Janacek (heard in some of the piano writing).
The disc presents the songs chronologically, over a mere eight-year span. Right from the first song, ‘Morning’, one is gripped. The melodic line refuses to act as one might expect it to, while being fully sensitised to words and accentuation. The piano part is lovely, free and almost improvised; the autumnal harmonies of the second song, ‘Orphaned’ reflect the beauty of the poem (by R. Bojko). Dana Buresova’s pristine-sounding voice comes across as a breath of fresh air (although taken as a whole it can become a little tiring to listen to).
The set of four songs under the title Sparks from Ashes (on texts by Bohdan Jelinek) seem to breathe a particularly Czech nostalgia. So the first, an evening song, finds Cheek in particular conjuring up a crepuscular atmosphere. The words of the third song, ‘Oh stay yet, my dear girl’, are positively heart-rending; more melancholy informs the final song of the set also. If Buresova can on occasion seems somewhat shrill in tone, she nevertheless brings out the inherent sadness effectively.
There seems too little gap on the disc between the Op. 5 songs and ‘January’ (‘Leden’), a miraculous song for voice, piano, flute, two violins and cello. This, surely, is the highlight of the disc, the delicate scoring, the inconclusive ending and an overall hypnotic element all combining to mesmeric effect. The poem (by Vitezslav Nezval) is a masterpiece in itself - this is surely a realisation of the text sent from Heaven.
It is astonishing to think that Opp. 10 and 12 are the works of a woman still in her early twenties, so assured is the writing. An apple from the lap, Op. 10, centres on impending doom. The pliant, Nature-ridden first song gives way to a tender and intimate lullaby. The final song is the most extrovert of the set and finds Kapralova using spicy harmonies to illustrate the ‘Spring Fair’.
Timothy Cheek evidently sees Kapralova’s Op. 12 as a masterpiece. Certainly this set of three songs under the title, 'Forever,' is extremely beautiful; the bare, spare textures of the second, ‘What is my grief’, appealed in particular to this reviewer. But perhaps Op. 14 (‘Waving farewell’) is more of a masterpiece. Hyper-Romantic in its sometimes extrovert piano writing and soaring vocal lines, its fairly extended duration (six minutes) means Kapralova is able to flex her compositional muscles. Again, Buresova can tend towards the shrill at climaxes, but to compensate she can be unbearably touching within piano.
The witty ‘Koleda’ (Carol) on a folk text is the wittiest piece of the collection, complete with animal impressions and a cheeky, chirpy accompaniment. It is logically paired with a Christmas Carol, where I for one would have difficulty sleeping through the shrill second verse!
Seconds, Op. 18, has a Bartokian simplicity to it and includes a ‘Posthumous Variation’, a piano interlude based on the folksong, ‘Taticku stary nas’ (‘Our old daddy’), Janacek-like in the insistence of its inner parts. The final song (‘New Year’s’) is interesting in its use of almost ecstatic harmonies.
If Janacek is a fairly frequent visitor to these works, it is Stravinsky that turns up in the final song of 'Sung into the distance,' Op. 22, where the piano part turns jagged. The final offering of this recital is the predominantly resigned, ‘Dopis’ (‘Letter') of 1940, a song written five days after her wedding. The music lights up at the words ‘Pan Buh’ (‘Lord God’).
The music of Vitezslava Kapralova is well worth investigating and this is as good a place as any to start. The whole enterprise exudes professionalism and dedication.
Review by Colin Clarke for MusicWeb.uk, June 2004. Reprinted by permission.

Kapralova-A Hidden Gem. Vitezslava Kapralova: Songs. Supraphon.
These songs are gorgeous. Swooping melodies, glissandos in the piano, simple melodies in the soprano, and all tied together by a strong Czech sound and sensibility.
From a review by Genevieve Thiers for amazon.com, June 16, 2004.

Vitezslava Kapralova. 29 Mélodies.
[...] Les interprètes excellent à rendre ce monde empreint de douceur, de rêve, de culpabilité immanente, de révolte amoureuse. [...] Que les mélomanes séduits par ces mélodies intimistes visitent le site www.kapralova.org pour mieux connaître cette artiste d'exception qui n'a "dansé que bien peu d'etés".
From a review by Pierre Barbier for Diapason, May 2004.

Vitezslava Kapralova: Pisne.
Spolecnost Vitezslavy Kapralove je fenomenem, jehoz obdobu bychom v soucasnosti nachazeli v ceskem hudebnim zivote jen obtizne [...] zejmena z toho duvodu, ze jeji cinnost je az neuveritelne rozsahla a zamerena na nejruznejsi typy aktivit. [...] K temto aktivitam se radi a na cestnem miste mezi nimi stoji CD pisni Vitezslavy Kapralove, vydany v lonskem roce firmou Supraphon. Soustreduje temer kompletni pisnove dilo skladatelky, trva uctyhodnych 70 minut a jeste uctyhodnejsi je skutecnost, ze v drtive vetsine jde o dila realizovana z rukopisu ulozenych v Oddeleni dejin hudby Moravskeho zemskeho muzea v Brne. Takovy edicni pocin je primo prikladny!
Skladby jsou serazeny chronologicky, takze je mozno sledovat skladatelcin kompozicni vyvoj od ranych titulu (Dve pisne op.4, Jiskry z popele op. 5, Leden - vse z let 1932-33) pres cykly z poloviny tricatych let psane jeste v Praze (Jablko s klina, Navzdy, Sbohem a satecek) az po dila komponovana povetsinou v Parizi a representujici posledni tvurci obdobi skladatelky na sklonku 30. let (Koleda, cyklus Vteriny, Vanocni koleda, cyklus Zpivano do dalky a Dopis). Mnohe z techto skladeb maji zretelnou vazbu na konkretni osoby [...]
CD pisni Vitezslavy Kapralove edicne pripravil a nastudoval Timothy Cheek, pianista a pedagog univerzity v Michiganu. Ke spolupraci vyzval pevkyni Danu Buresovou, solistku Narodniho divadla v Praze, ktera je jedinou interpretkou alba. Mozna by bylo v zajmu reprodukcni pestrosti lepsi rozdelit tento ukol mezi dva solisty, nejlepe muze a zenu (uz z toho duvodu, ze vetsina zhudebnenych textu je psana v muzskem rode). Sama Kapralova ani v jednom pripade obsazeni neurcuje, v podtitulu uvadi pouze "pro hlas a klavir", nanejvyse "pro vyssi hlas a klavir". Dana Buresova neni prozatim tak zkusenou pisnovou interpretkou, aby pri narocnosti vice nez hodinoveho programu dokazala jednotlive pisne zasadneji vyrazove odlisit, nicmene odvedla i tak vykon uctyhodny. Zdarile je i vybaveni CD: booklet ve ctyrech jazycich a ve velmi peknem vytvarnem zpracovani prinasi vedle zasveceneho uvodniho slova i texty vsech zhudebnenych basni. Secteno a podtrzeno: CD pisni Vitezslavy Kapralove je pocinem prvoradeho vyznamu, ktery je mozno jednoznacne privitat.
From a review by © Jindra Bartova for Opus Musicum 2 (2004): 45. Reprinted by permission.

Indrukwekkende liederen van vergeten talent.
Vitezslava Kapralova - 'Forever Kapralova'. Dana Buresova, sopraan, Timothy Cheek, piano en leden van het Herold Quartet. Supraphon SU 3752-2 231. www.kapralova.org
Tijdens haar leven werd Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-1940) gezien als een van de grootste componisten van haar generatie. Zij was een fenomeen: eerste vrouw die afstudeerde als componist aan het Brno Conservatorium, eerste winnares van de Smetana compositieprijs, eerste dirigente van het Tsjechisch Filharmonisch orkest. In 1937 verhuisde ze naar Parijs, ontmoette er Schönberg, Stravinsky, leden van de Group des Six en het duurde niet lang of haar eigen werken werden er uitgevoerd. Kapralova was succesvol, had charisma en belangrijke deuren gingen moeiteloos voor haar open. Maar tuberculose maakte nog vlak voor het uitbreken van WO-II een einde aan dat enerverende leven. Nu is Kapralova totaal vergeten, zelfs in eigen land Tsjecho-Slowakije waar Smetana, Dvorak, Janacek en Martinu nog altijd de concertprogramma's aanvoeren. Volgens de Kapralova Society, opgericht met als doel haar muziek te promoten, overtreft Kapralova haar beroemde landgenoten in de liedkunst. Met haar passie voor poëzie - ze verzamelde gedichten en schreef ze zelf ook - is het haast vanzelfsprekend dat die liedkunst haar favoriete genre was. Recent werd een prachtig verzorgde cd uitgebracht met 29 liederen. 'Forever Kapralova' is de titel en de kennismaking met haar muziek maakt inderdaad een onuitwisbare indruk. De liederen getuigen van een grote originaliteit. De toonzettingen treffen direct de sfeer van de gedichten. Trouwens die gedichten zijn ook erg de moeite waard en van tijd- en landgenoten van de componiste, waaronder Nobelprijswinnaar literatuur Jaroslav Seifert. De verzameling is chronologisch opgenomen en zo hoor je de muzikale ontwikkeling. Dana Buresova is een welluidende sopraan en haar vaardige begeleiders maken dit portret van Kapralova onvergetelijk.
Review by Patricia Werner Leanse, first printed in OPZIJ, May 2004. Reprinted by permission.

Vitezslava Kapralova: Songs.
Kapralova est pour le lied tchèque ce que Duparc est pour la mélodie française. Une redécouverte capitale.
From a review for abeillemusique.com (available online as of May 4, 2004).

Vitezslava Kapralova: Portrait of the Composer. Studio Matous, Czech Republic, MK 0049-2011.
It is indeed regrettable that Vitezslava Kapralova's (1915-40) exuberant musical voice was cut short before it had developed fully. As both composer and conductor, her gifts were recognized early and won her both praise and opportunity. Seven of her 25 works with opus numbers, written during the last five years of her life, appear on this CD. [...] Three of the pieces seem particularly promising for recital programming. Ritornell, op. 25, for cello and piano (1940), her last work performed by Ivan Merka, (cello), and Jaroslav Smykal, (piano), is brief (4:31) but full of musical energy, and gives both instruments an equal challenge. April Preludes, op. 13, for piano (1937, also performed by Jaroslav Smykal), has four short movements, each providing opportunity for technical display as well as nuanced, lyrical pianism. The Partita, op. 20, for string orchestra and piano (1938-39, performed by the Czech Symphony Orchestra of Brno, conducted by Frantisek Jilek with Jiri Skovajsa, piano), is really a piano concerto with three substantial, complex movements and frequent interactive dialogue between the string group and the piano. This is the most flavorful work on the CD, appealing in its angular rhythms and transparent textures. The performers on this CD meet Kapralova's energetic and skillful music with verve and finesse.
From a review by Alexandra Pierce, for the IAWM Journal 10, no. 1 (2004): 51. Reprinted by permission.

Forever Kapralova
Under the above title the Supraphon CD devoted to the songs of Vitezslava Kapralova is now available (SU 3752-2 231).
Until now there has been little opportunity to hear any of these songs outside the Czech Republic. Some members may recall a first UK broadcast by Jill Gomez in 1988 of the three songs Opus 12 entitled Forever along with Kapralova's last song The Letter in memorable performance.
Kapralova was born in 1915, the daughter of the composer Vaclav Kapral. The songs date from 1932, when she was a 17 year old student at the Brno Conservatory, to April 1940 shortly before her death at the age of 25. The earliest songs carry hints of Debussy but Kapralova soon found a distinctive voice of her own, albeit with some echoes of Martinu with whom she went to study in Paris in 1937. The songs Opus 12 from which the title of this album is taken are perhaps the finest of all with a haunting musical and emotional content.
The collection on this disc is complete save for two early exercises and what are described in the accompanying booklet as two 'utalitarian' songs written for special occasions, the Hymn of the volunteer nurses of the Czechoslovak Red Cross from 1938 and the Song of the workers of the Lord from 1939, discovered only recently. One can but regret their omission as they must carry a reflection of those traumatic times. In mitigation it must be said that this is a well filled disc (70 minutes duration with 29 tracks). Among other songs included is the touching Vanocni koleda which she wrote in Paris for her parents for Christmas 1939, rendered all the more poignant by their enforced separation through the occupation and the outbreak of the Second World War (circumstances not mentioned in the notes).
The songs are admirably performed by Dana Buresova who maintains a beautiful vocal line throughout. She is accompanied by Timothy Cheek who also wrote the liner notes. No admirer of the music of Kapralova will wish to be without this disc.
Finally one must commend Karla Hartl and the Kapralova Society for their persistence in getting the works of Kapralova published and committed to disc. It is remarkable that a small nucleus of dedicated people has been able to achieve so much with very limited resources. It is an object lesson for other small composer societies with a limited membership, some of which are much better endowed.
Review by Greg Terian for the Dvorak Society Newsletter No. 67 (April 2004): 5.

Vitezslava Kapralova. Pisne. Dana Buresova - sopran, Timothy Cheek - klavir, Magda Caslavska - fletna, clenove Heroldova kvarteta Petr Zdvihal - 1. housle, JanValta - 2. housle, David Havelik - violoncello. Produkce: Petr Vit. Text: A, N, F, C. Nahrano: 7/2003, Studio Domovina, Praha. Vydano: 2003. TT: 70:13.DDD. 1 CD Supraphon SU 3752-2 231.
Souborne provedeni pisni V. Kapralove predstavuje jeji pisnovy odkaz jako prekvapive jednolity celek. Je to svet nesmirne krehky a zaroven dojemny ve sve uprimnosti a zranitelnosti. Zhudebnene basnicke texty pochazeji sice od ruznych autoru (Seifert, Nezval, Hora, Sramek, Carek, Kricka aj.), ale jsou spolecneho rodu - mluvi o smutku, stesku, louceni, osameni, nenavratnem plynuti casu. Je skutecne s podivem, jak Kapralova dokazala pres sve mladi vtisknout kazde pisni skladatelsky dokonaly tvar a jakou davku pruzracne hudebni poezie jim pritom vdechla. Vsechny jeji pisne se vyznacuji cistym a vyzralym rukopisem, ktery sice prochazi urcitym vyvojem, ale vzdy si zachovava sympatickou osobitost. Melodicka linka zni pri vsi modernosti tak prirozene, jako by ani nepripoustela jineho reseni. K jeji pusobivosti prispivaji klavirni doprovody, ktere s mimoradnou citlivosti dokresluji atmosferu pisni. Popisne zvukomalby uziva Kapralova minimalne, a pokud tak cini, pak vzdy s napaditosti a muzikantskym vtipem (ruch Jarni pouti, troji rozmanita stylizace ptaciho zpevu v Kolede, Rodnem kraji ci v Pisni milostne apod.). Dana Buresova zpiva pisne V. Kapralove s dokonalym pochopenim a vcitenim. Ma velmi prijemny a vyrovnane znejici hlas, ktery se zda byt prave pro tento druh hudby naprosto idealni. Americky pianista Timothy Cheek hraje s vedomim, ze klavirni part neni u Kapralove pouhym doprovodem, ale rovnocennou slozkou, kterou je nutne vypracovat do nejmensich detailu. A dari se mu to bajecne. Nutno pripomenout, ze T. Cheek je vynikajicim znalcem dila V. Kapralove a ceske kultury vubec (mj. prednedavnem vydal fundovanou publikaci "Singing in Czech" o ceske vokalni vyslovnosti pro anglicke zpevaky). Pripocteme-li ke vsem kladum tohoto CD navíc jeste krasnou vytvarnou podobu a velkoryse redakcni zpracovani, muzeme je bez rozpaku zaradit k nejvyznamnejsim a nejobjevnejsim tuzemskym projektum poslednich let.
Review by Veroslav Nemec for Harmonie, April 2004. Reprinted by permission.

Vitezslava Kapralova: Songs. Supraphon - DDD.
Un recente cd della Supraphon ci offre l'occasione per ritornare a parlare di Vitezslava Kapralova, musicista e direttrice d'orchestra, nata a Praga nel 1915 e morta di tubercolosi a Montpellier, a soli 25 anni. Il disco comprende la quasi totalita dei canti da lei composti, avvalendosi spesso delle liriche dei più importanti poeti cechi del periodo. Per questo motivo, nel nominare i titoli abbiamo scelto la versione inglese, dall'originale in quanto una traduzione in italiano li avrebbe ulteriormente snaturati. Il cd si apre con Two songs, op. 4, su testi di R. Bojko, al quale segue Sparks from Ashes, op. 5 (1932-33), su poesie di Bohdan Jelinek, mentre January, per voce, pianoforte, flauto, due violini e violoncello (1933) si avvale dell'apporto di Nezval e An apple from the Lap, op. 10 (1934-36) prende spunto dall'omonima raccolta di Seifert. Sono solo gli esempi iniziali di un disco che contiene anche riferimenti autobiografici, come il conclusivo Letter (1940), scritto pochi giorni dopo il matrimonio della Kapralova con Jiri Mucha, figlio del più noto Alphonse. Il pezzo e piuttosto curioso, se si pensa che di lì a poco la musicista sarebbe morta, in quanto il tema trattato non e un addio alla vita, ma la lettera di una ragazza che si lamenta con il ragazzo che l'ha rifiutata. In complesso, si può affermare che questi canti si discostino dal resto della produzione della Kapralova, non per lo stile, ma per gli stati d'animo che esprimono, incentrati soprattutto sul tema della sofferenza patita sia a causa della malattia che per la lontananza da Praga. Un vero e proprio diario intimo, sottolineato dalla eccezionale interpretazione del soprano Dana Buresova, che affronta i brani della Kapralova con grande trasporto ed immedesimazione, abbinati ad una splendida voce. Un notevole apporto e fornito dal pianista Timothy Cheek che, oltre a dimostrare grande affiatamento con la cantante, e autore delle note introduttive del corposo libretto di accompagnamento. All'altezza appaiono anche gli altri interpreti, la flautista Magda Caslavova con tre dei membri del Quartetto Herold, ovvero i violinisti Petr Zdvihal e Jan Valta ed il violoncellista David Havelik. In definitiva un disco di estremo interesse, che speriamo abbia anche in Italia la diffusione che merita, e che si deve principalmente al forte interessamento della Kapralova Society, organismo istituito nel 1998 con l'intento di diffondere la produzione della sfortunata compositrice ceca.
Review by Marco del Vaglio for Nuova e Nostra, March 28, 2004. Reprinted by permission.

Forever Kapralova (Songs).
Vitezslava Kapralova was a rising star in the 1930s. She was chosen to represent Czechoslovakia at the 1938 ISCM Festival for new music in London, where her compositions were presented alongside those of Bartok, Britten, Copland, Hindemith, and other VIPs of the twentieth century. A close associate of Bohuslav Martinu, she combined the best of Czech modernism with elements of French impressionism to form a highly individual and appealing style. Her death from miliary tuberculosis in 1940 put a premature end to what would likely have been a spectacular career.
Anyone looking for an introduction to Kapralova's music should start with this insightful recording by soprano Dana Buresova and pianist Timothy Cheek. As the first major release devoted to Kapralova, it wisely focuses on her most distinctive genre of composition - her songs for voice and piano. It is essentially a complete collection, leaving aside only juvenilia, occasional works, and one song that does not yet exist in a performable edition. By turn melancholy, joyful, and contemplative, the songs reveal an astonishingly mature style for such a young composer, and an ability to distill sentiment into musical form with deceptive ease. The natural inflections of the Czech language overlay sparkling piano textures that often bring Maurice Ravel to mind, with fleeting hints of Stravinsky and Kapralova's Czech contemporaries - although the end result is unmistakably her own.
Buresova sings these songs with obvious affection, bell-like tone, and a subtle sense of inflection. Cheek strikes just the right balance between clarity and warmth in the piano, allowing the rich, sometimes piquant, harmonies to linger without muddying the texture. Together they create the kind of partnership that is essential to chamber music of any kind, but especially songs, where mood, tempo, and color are concentrated into short forms. Magda Caslavova (flute), Petr Zdvihal, Jan Valta, and David Havelik (members of the Herold Quartet) are also excellent. This is a highly recommendable recording, both as a document of Kapralova's music and as a collection of songs in its own right. It is clearly a labor of love by all involved, and all the more enjoyable for it.
Review by Allen Schrott for All Music Guide, March 2004. Reprinted by permission.

Kapralova. Songs. Dana Buresova (soprano), Timothy Cheek (piano), Magda Caslavova (flute), Herold Quartet. Supraphon SU3752-2. 70:13 min.
Vitezslava Kapralova's tragic death from illness at the age of 25 in 1940 almost certainly deprived the Czechs of a major compositional talent. Schooled by Vitezslav Novak, Nadia Boulanger and Bohuslav Martinu, she possessed by her early twenties a formidable technique and was well on the way to developing a distinctive voice. This handsomely produced, near-complete recording of Kapralova's songs ranges from her teens to her sadly brief maturity in the late Thirties. Stylistically, her songs from the early Thirties mingle impressionism and Romanticism; interestingly, although she did not encounter Martinu for another few years, her melodic language already seems to be leaning toward his. A greater range of expression is apparent in the exquisite, ensemble-accompanied Nezval setting, "January." If the impressionist tones do not entirely disappear, Kapralova's later songs have a harder harmonic edge and greater motivic concentration. [...] There are some real treasures here and for anyone interested in 20th-century Czech music, a fresh perspective on the post-Janacek era.
From a review by Jan Smaczny for BBC Music Magazine, March 2004. Reprinted by permission