Kolo, Op. 12. Oraci - The Ploughers, Op. 18. Guslar the
Fiddler, Op. 22. Song and Kolo
from Ero. Song and Dance from the Balkan, Op. 16. TAJCEVIC:
Seven Balkan Dances.
Radio-Philharmonie Hannover des NDR/Moshe Atzmon, cond.
cpo 999 724 (F) (ADD) TT: 66:38
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The only music of this composer I know is the Kolo (Dance) from his opera Ero, Der Schelm ("Ero, the Joker"), in a early '60s recording with Rudolf Kempe and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, now available on Testament (SBT 1127). It's a delightful folksy dance by Jakov Gotovac who during his lifetime (1895-1982) was one of Croatia's best known composers who also conducted choruses and orchestras in Yugoslavia. No experimentation for him - he was content to fill his operas and other scores with accessible folk-like tunes most of which he composed. His best music is found in works he wrote for what the CD notes call "little people," the natives of the countryside, expressing rather basic moods, emotions and activities. The current (and possibly last) Schwann/Opus has no listings for Gotovac, so this fine cpo issue is welcome if only for the opportunity to hear more of his music.
The CD booklet heading calls all five works "Symphonic Poems," which surely isn't correct although obviously the two longest works (Oraci - The Ploughers and Guslar the Fiddler) fit that description. The former, also called a "symphonic meditation," describes a day in the life of plowmen; the latter is a musical depiction of a blind itinerant singer who accompanies himself on a folk instrument called the gusle. Kolo is a folk dance known throughout the South Slavic region. Gotovac's Symphonic Kolo, his treatment of three of these dances, dates from 1926 and was the composer's first orchestral work. The comic opera Ero the Joker (1935) ends with a celebration of requited love along with a stirring folk festival. The composer prepared a concert version of this which has become relatively popular outside his native country which, as mentioned above, was recorded by Kempe/VPO.
The CD is filled out with Seven Balkan Dances by Gotovac's contemporary Marco Tajcevic (1900-1984) who was a choir conductor and teacher as well as a music critic. Writing mostly in smaller forms, he composed about forty Servian folk songs from 1952-1953. Apparently not simply settings of existing folk tunes, these originally were written for piano. Artur Rubinstein played some of them, and Jascha Heifetz arranged some of them for the violin. This short suite (13:36) of seven of the dances was orchestrated by Slovenian conductor Bogo Leskovic. They are charming, sprightly miniatures which here - like most of the music on this CD - apparently receive first recordings.
Moshe Atzmon and his Hannover orchestra make a strong case for this music and they have been well recorded. There's nothing here of great importance, but it is an opportunity to hear music otherwise neglected.
R.E.B. (February 2002)