Fourteen of the surviving songs by Jan Masaryk have been brought together on this disc by Miss Lichtenberg with a group of Bohemian and Canadian musicians in a profoundly illuminating performance. The starting point is obviously to resurrect and make new and contemporary this Czech, Moravian and Slovak songs – Jan Masaryk was famously a unifier in his day and did much to bring the Moravian and Slovak people together much against the tide of the aftermath of World War II and the relative distrust between the Czech and Slovak peoples – and Miss Lichtenberg does much to preserve the lofty sentiment of the originals.
The poignancy of Miss Lichtenberg’s renditions also has much to do with the fact that she channels much of the tragedy of those years with great emotion. Her own family was forced into Terezín, the notorious ghetto created by the diabolical Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich; many of whom perished there. Miss Lichtenberg also channels the tragedy of Lidice and much of the rest of the tragedy of the Bohemian peoples, but also their indomitable spirit its ultimate triumph over Nazism under Jan Masaryk and President Edvard Beneš who shepherded the Czech people towards liberation from the Nazis.
As always, Miss Lichtenberg reveals herself here as an artist of the first order, broadening out from her Hebrew and Yiddish repertory for which she is best known. Her instrument is gorgeous; lustrous, precise and feather-light. Her musicianship is fierce as she digs into the expression of each word, brings ceaseless variety to soft dynamics and gives every phrase grace. She is accompanied by – among a mighty ensemble – superb Canadian trumpeter David Buchbinder and the incomparable percussionist, composer and orchestrator Tomas Reindl who arranges several pieces (Miss Lichtenberg has arranged the bulk of the repertoire). These and other fine musicians bring deeply interiorised readings of this material that complements Miss Lichtenberg’s execution.
The sweetness of “Dobrú Noc, Má Milá” is a benchmark performance. The melancholy of “Ach, Není Tu, Není” is palpable and the song “Umrem, Umrem” gains great depth from Miss Lichtenberg’s treatment, while the levity in the former two songs is appropriately muted. Here, as elsewhere, Miss Lichtenberg and her ensemble make music that say something new. And by any measure that’s great music-making, especially in the historical context of these exquisite songs by Jan Masaryk.
Track list – 1: Kdo Má Počernů Galánku; 2: Láska, Bože, Láska; 3: Koupím Já Si Koně Vraný; 4: Dobrú Noc, Má Milá; 5: Pod Tým Naším Okénečkem; 6: Ach, Synku, Synku; 7: Teče Voda, Teče; 8: Ach, Není Tu, Není; 9: Šly Panenky Silnicí; 10: Proč Si K Nám Neprišeu? 11: Zelení Hájové; 12: Horo, Horo, Vysoká Jsi; 13: Zdálo Se Mně, Má Panenko; 14: Umrem, Umrem
Personnel – Lenka Lichtenberg: vocals, piano, tambourine, percussion and harmonium; David Dorůžka: guitar; Robert Fischmann: flute; Tomáš Liška: contrabass; Tomas Reindl: tabla, glockenspiel, cajon, didjeridoo and percussion; David Buchbinder: trumpet and fugelhorn; Jan Mikušek: cimbalom; Hana Buličková: horns; Jan Keller: cello; Alexj Aslamas Jr.: violin 1; Ondřej Hás: violin 2; Stanislav Vacek: viola; Štěpán Drtina: cello; Matti Palonen: kantele; Hana Hrachovinová: harp; Dabor Bárta: bagpipes and clarinet; Pavel Hrubý: clarinet and bass clarinet; Monika Boušková: oboe, English horn; Zita Petrák: piano
Released – 2018
Label – ARC Music (EUCD 2751)
Runtime – 58:33