"The duo plays with lyrical sweep, and an unhurried tenderness."
Katerina Englichova, harp; Vilem; Veverka, oboe. Naxos, 2017.
When asked what she liked best about being a professional musician, Czech harpist Katerina Englichova replies it’s being able to get into a different state of mind. “You don´t need drugs. Classical music is a drug. Once you get to know it more, you can never leave it. You start having a different perspective on people, on life.” From the first notes of her latest disc Impressions with long-time collaborator oboist Vilem Veverka, you too will feed your longing for something more out of life, for a sense of beauty and respite.
In some ways, the duo admits, the disc was recorded to showcase the very best, and to use their word, the most “attractive” music they play together. How much more lovely is any music than the fragile virtuosity of Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin? Katerina comes to harp by way of the piano and always dreamed of making her own arrangement, much as Ravel did. Otmar Kvech created a stunning vehicle for the sunny warmth of her playing as well as the vibrant tone of Vilem’s oboe. It was a surprise to them that he included the Toccata, which Ravel left out of the orchestral suite, but it is perhaps some of the most thrilling playing on the album.
By the time the album comes to four miniatures by Claude Debussy, it suddenly dawns on the listener that there are few professional harp and oboe duos. Their playing is so rapturous, one would assume this configuration was the norm. Reverie becomes an altogether new piece with the more vivid primary colors of the oboe. The palette, that at one time risked becoming so even it lacked luster, is suddenly cracked open with a daub of blue here, a streak of red there. The two movements from Suite Bergamasque are lovingly rendered, the duo breathing together as one.
In between a full helping of Ravel—Pieces en forme de Habanera and Pavane pour une infant defunte—as well as the Debussy just discussed, are two by Czech composer Lubos Sluka, which are worth the price of the CD in themselves. His Cage for Two Nightingales, originally for bassoon and piano, will leave you breathless, even if Vilem has extra to spare holding the final note out for (nearly) ever. The duo plays with lyrical sweep, and an unhurried tenderness. Two passages from Primavera have a vague and unsettled exotic feel, with a few chords pushed just one notch past where Ravel and Debussy dared go. This is truly a lovely discovery.