Uwe Mund

Bedrich Smetana: Má Vlast (My Fatherland)

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Smetana's crowning achievement as the father of the Czech Nationalist music movement is his six-movement Má Vlast (My Fatherland). It incorporates not only musical traditions of the Czech people, but also pastoral scenes and even history. It's a little peculiar to have the embodiment of Czech Nationalist music performed by a Japanese orchestra led by a German conductor. In general, though, the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra under Uwe Mund offer a fairly convincing and stylistically appropriate interpretation of Má Vlast. Some of the tempo choices are a bit on the quick side, particularly in "Sárka," making it seem like some of the details are being glossed over. However, the biggest single albatross hanging around the neck of this album is a discrepancy within the orchestra itself. Specifically, the incredible mismatch in tone, intonation, articulation, and ensemble between the brass section and the rest of the orchestra. The beginning of the "Moldau," for example, gives two-and-a-half minutes of beautifully flowing string playing and gentle woodwinds truly evoking the movement of the river. The entrance of the brass puts an abrupt end to any elegance and certainly to the overall intonation of the orchestra. Think of it as trying to listen to Bach while someone's throwing a frat party in your living room; it is just far too distracting. Unfortunately, the problem is pervasive throughout the album, rendering the entire CD a poor choice for anyone seeking a first recording of this work.

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