Among Supraphon's long series of releases commemorating Karel Ancerl we find, in addition to various good to excellent performances of standard repertoire, several interesting releases containing music by less well-established Czech composers. This is a prime example - in fact, this disc contains some marvelous music, in thoroughly superb performances, and is nothing short of a must to anyone even mildly interested in expanding their musical horizons.
Jarmil Burgahauser's Seven Reliefs for Large Orchestra dates from 1962 and is written in an avant-garde oriented language very much of its time, yet this stirring, even gripping, music easily transcends any historical confinements. The music is visceral, energetic and colorful, utilizing the various orchestral forces and combinations of these in impressively imaginative ways. The Czech Philharmonic dispatches this utterly absorbing music with dazzling skill and textural shadings and Karel Ancerl's ability to build tensions and climaxes is simply to marvel at.
The ambitious 50 minute symphony by Vaclav Dobias stands in sharp contrast; tonal and with a rather tradition-oriented harmonic language (for a stylistic reference, think the Alexander Moyzes symphonies, and if that doesn't help, Kodály, Bartok and Prokofiev), it is still a superb work that would have deserved a life at least at the fringes of the standard repertoire. It is urgently intense, full of drama and dizzyingly spinning dynamic counterpoint, turbulent and imaginatively orchestrated with brass and strings often crashing together in contrapuntal confrontation. The pensive Adagio is the only respite, but even this one carries a nervous tension. Ancerl drives it on for all it's worth with fiery power, and the Czech Philharmonic responds with playing that is little short of remarkable. The sound-quality is surprisingly vivid as well - sometimes a little bright, but usually with impressive depth. This is, in short, a quite remarkable issue; strongly recommended.