Ivana Kunc

Music of Bozidar Kunc

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Bozidar Kunc was a Croatian composer, brother of soprano Zinka Milanov (the story of this name change is worth checking out). Like Milanov, he emigrated to the U.S., and continued to compose. Those who haunt the ethnic music programs at the lower end of the FM dial know that the entrenchment of the concert tradition in Eastern European cultures is deep, and that local scenes flourish largely under the radar. This disc gives us an above-average sample of what you might hear at a Croat community center in Toronto, Akron, or Chicago. Kunc died in Detroit in 1964. His music was touched only lightly by specifically Croat elements; its primary stylistic stimulant is Ravel's late impressionism, specifically its slightly jazz-tinged variant of the 1920s. Indeed, it is hard to tell whether Kunc absorbed influences from Gershwin in his adoptive home, or whether one is hearing them filtered through Ravel -- and through the light, agile voice of his daughter, soprano Ivana Kunc, who lives in New York. Most of the songs have English texts; to hear a Ravel-like setting of William Wordsworth's poem "The Daffodils" is a novelty. There are two Croatian-language songs, and these are more ambitious and larger in scale than the rest of the music on the disc, which could have been written for family and friends. Ivana Kunc a pleasure to hear, and the real highlight of this disc is its domestic quality -- the third member of the family involved is Bozidar Kunc's wife, De'Elda, who wrote many of the texts and chronicled her love affair with her husband in De'Elda's Love Songs, Op. 72. They're rather naïve, yet oddly original ("I could write a poem, it may be short or long/And when I write in meter, my love writes in song"), and the music picks up on their unusual twists in an intimate way. This privately issued disc is probably intended for social and cultural circles close to those of the performer, but its charms are accessible to outsiders.

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