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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Of the multiple recording of Má Vlast made by the veteran Czech conductor, Vaclav Talich, this is the last, made in 1954. The venue was the Dvoƙák hall in the Rudolfinum in Prague, and the mono sound is very acceptable as transferred by Mark Obert-Thorn. The Buoyancy of the rhythms and the warmth of the string set against the typically rustic sound of the woodwind are exactly right for the music, ending with fiery accounts of the last two of the six symphonic poems…

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2007

Vaclav Talich was the founder of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra as we know it today, having taken over in 1919 a group of players that would have kindly been described as of European provincial standard. Endless rehearsals followed his arrival and within the space of three years he had created an ensemble ready to be compared with the world's finest. In the years that followed he had many trials and tribulations, among them being the description of a Nazi collaborator in the Second World War. Just having recovered from that slur, the Communists came to power in Czechoslovakia, robbing him of his position as Music Director and sending him to live in Bratislava. He did his best there with local musicians to form the Slovak Philharmonic, and at least placed it on Europe's musical map. Finding that they had no conductor with an international reputation, the regime had to allow him to return to the Czech Philharmonic to make recordings, Ma Vlast being one of the greatest achievements, the orchestra seeming to respond to their old maestro with playing far above their standard in the early 1950's. Made for the State recording label, Supraphon, in 1954, it came from his last period with the orchestra. The sound was quite good for its age, the climatic moments just showing stress distortion and there is some loss of inner detail in tutti passages. The river, Vltava, flows with a spacious impressiveness, the music having a latent power, the woodwind often glistening in the rippling quality. Drama is here in abundance, though the most remarkable aspect is the sunny disposition that shines through the whole performance. Only in the fifth section, Tabor, do we find a grimness invading the music, the final movement, Blanik, full of optimism.

Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, May 2007

Talich's epic 1954 reading of the Smetana's symphonic cycle My Country remains splendid on every level. Among the great recordings that mark the total legacy of Czech master Vaclav Talich (1883-1961), his epic 1954 (10-12 June and 2-3 July) reading of the Smetana's symphonic cycle My Country remains splendid on every level. The third of his inscriptions of this massive, patriotic work (the first two having appeared in 1929 and 1941), it evokes in Talich and his committed Czech players a fervent, resonantly clear and rhythmically supple series of tonal evocations of the landscape and sprit of a people. The opening harp riffs, suggesting the national bard, Lumir's call to the muses, soon broadens to embrace an heroic ethos of pageantry and drama. The CPO plucked strings, woodwinds and brass chirp the Moldau's early phase as a series of rivulets that soon the strings and harps expand into a mighty, life-giving flow. The musical line remains taut, the tension pitched forward, reminiscent of Toscanini in its rhythmic buoyancy, of Mitropoulos in its feverish insistence on individual colors. Even beyond the rustic niceties of the country dance, the night music on the river might well realize a seraph's dream. When the Moldau passes the High Castle at Vysehrad, the power of musical convergence is shattering. Sarka invites us in to the tumultuous world of legend, a passionate depiction of an Amazon princess bent on destruction. The velocity of the strings, the mix of march tempo topped by cymbals and triangle, make for an alchemical moment of conducting magic. In two sections, one lyrical and nostalgic, the other martial and pompous, the piece gains a whirling ferocity quite overwhelming. For sheer pantheistic vertigo, Talich's opening from Bohemia's Meadows and Forests has no competitor on record. An impressionistic quilt of dazzling color assaults our ears and eyes, only to break free into an energized Slavonic dance. Tabor and Blanik unite the Hussite consciousness of the Czech national pride. The call to arms must have resonated in Talich's heart when he performed this monumental music in spite of Nazi decrees banning it. The militant, three-note tattoo of Tabor rises to a organ-like majesty of melodic expression rare in any music lover's experience. This is an album quintessentially basic to the world's music library. Kudos to Mark Obert-Thorne's sonic restorations of recordings already noted for their singularly limpid acoustics.

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