Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Blog Full of Cliches: Reviewing Smetana's Complete Orchestra Music

I have been listening (cliche one) to the Brilliant Smetana Complete Orchestral Works box set (Brilliant, 93634) recently. This three disc set contains some of Smetana's best known orchestral work, such as the omnipresent Ma Vlast (cliche two) and the overture to Smetana's opera The Bartered Bride, along with lesser known works like the symphonic poems Wallenstein's Camp, Hakon Jarl, Richard III, Doktor Faust, the Festive Overtures in C major and D major, the three dances to The Bartered Bride, the two polkas Venkovanka and Nasim Devam, and the two marches the March of the National guard and the Shakespeare Festival March. All of these works are conducted by Theodor Kuchar, who made a name for himself in the international recording world by conducting a number of works on that other major bargain label, Naxos, and played by the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra of Ostrava, Czech Republic.

So how did I like this set? I liked it very much (cliche three). In fact I liked it more than the well known two set disc of Smetana pieces conducted by Rafael Kubelik and James Levine on Deutsche Gramophon (cliche four). While the Janacek Philharmonic may not be Kubelik's Boston Symphony Orchestra or Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks or Levine's Wiener Philharmoniker, it plays very well (cliche six) and Kuchar's conducting is excellent (cliche six).

I highly recommend Brilliant's bargain priced Smetana set (cliche seven). So whether you are a lover of Czech nationalist music, a lover Smetana, or simply a lover of Brilliant's inexpensive box sets (I am all three), don't hesitate to pick it up (cliches eight, nine, and ten). After all much of the music on discs two and three, while rarely heard outside of the Czech Republic, is always interesting and, at least for me, oftentimes quite enjoyable (cliche eleven). I give Brilliant Classics's Smetana boxset 4.75 stars out of 5 (cliche twelve). It is my bargain disc of the week (cliche thirteen).

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