Petr Eben: In Heaven. Jitro Czech Girls Choir | Jiří Skopal, conductor. © 2019 Navona Records LLC

CD Spotlight

Truly Lovely

Music by Petr Eben for girls' choir
impresses GEOFF PEARCE

'This great disc of an exceptional girls' choir performing the work of one of Bohemia's most important voices does not disappoint in any way ...'


This excellent and very listenable disc showcases one of the world's best youth choirs performing music by Bohemian composer Petr Eben (1929-2007). I was introduced to Eben's music very recently - for those who do not know of him, this is a very fine composer with an assured technique and a strong vision. Eben was an organist as well as a composer, so liturgical music features strongly in his output, and he also wrote extensively for organ and piano as well as orchestral music. An important influence on his works is the folk music from his region.

The first five tracks form a set entitled Liturgical Chants, scored for soprano and alto voices and organ, and the Jitro Czech Girls Choir impresses with its purity of sound, strong delivery and response to Jiří Skopal's excellent direction. The organ provides an accompaniment of long chords, and being a set of chants, the music is in unison. The result is simple and direct, as is fitting for the setting.

Listen — Petr Eben: Evangelium (Liturgical Chants)
(track 3, 0:09-0:39) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :

Four Choruses on Latin Texts, for choir alone, is more complex music, involving part writing. Sometimes it's contrapuntal, and sometimes one part will provide the melody and the other will take a more accompanying role. 'De Angelis' is a lovely little short chorus, providing a lot of contrast, and showing off the impressive skills of this choir.

Listen — Petr Eben: De Angelis (Four Choruses on Latin Texts)
(track 7, 1:15-1:49) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :

The third set, Catonis Moralia, also sung in Latin, is based on anonymous third century texts, and is in the form of a Baroque dance suite of six short movements: Preludio, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande. Air and Gigue. Written as one would expect for instrumental forces, and quite complex and lively, it is a great vehicle to show off the virtuosity of this choir, especially evident in the opening Preludio, the Courante and final Gigue. I am struck by the cleanly performed vocal lines, clear diction and absolutely impressive intonation. The Air is a beautiful reflective movement and is performed here to perfection.

Listen — Petr Eben: Air (Catonis Moralia)
(track 13, 1:02-2:06) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :

Ten Poetic Duets introduces a soloist and piano, and the soloist is highlighted in the movement entitled 'Scorrendo tranquillamente'. The texts, poems of Vítězslav Nezval, reflect upon the border between childhood and maturity. These beautiful songs are again a great showcase for the girls' choir.

Listen — Petr Eben: Scorrendo tranquillamente (Ten Poetic Duets)
(track 22, 1:18-2:12) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :

About Swallows and Girls is a set of nine short songs which form a 'miniature analogy of Bach's Art of Fugue'. Based on folksongs from Moravia, Silesia and Bohemia, they are for unaccompanied voices. The texture, whilst being of a contrapuntal or canonic nature, remains true to the songs' roots, and this provides a satisfying and complete conclusion to this truly lovely disc.

Listen — Petr Eben: The Swallow Is Flying (About Swallows and Girls)
(track 28, 0:00-0:39) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :

This great disc of an exceptional girls' choir performing the work of one of Bohemia's most important voices does not disappoint in any way, and I will play it often.

Copyright © 13 September 2019 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia




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