One of the difficulties with the cycle of six tone poems that make up `Ma Vlast` is that we rarely if ever hear more than two of them, Vltava, and From Bohemia`s Woods and Fields, in concert or anywhere else for that matter. The first of the set is Vysehrad,a depiction of the old Hussite fortress-site on the Vltava River, and Antoni Wit kicks off immediately with a superbly gripping performance of it. This sets the tone for the rest of the disc, with finely-paced versions of Vltava (the river sweeps through Prague majestically, and the St. Johns Rapids section is truly exciting), Sarka, From Bohemia`s Woods and Fields (a wonderful `big tune` at the heart of it), and the two neglected pieces to close, Tabor, and Blanik. If you can listen to this cycle complete, in one sitting as it were (the disc clocks in at almost 80 minutes` worth), and retain your interest, this is a good test of whether justice has been done to Smetana`s wonderful music. No problems here in that regard whatsoever.
I have had the privilege of hearing the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra live on a number of occasions when they have been to the UK on tour. They are a highly dedicated band of musicians, their performances are never routine run-throughs, and their rapport with their respected conductor is second to none. All of this comes through on this recording, made in the winter of 1993-94 in Katowice, at the Concert Hall of Polish Radio.
I have always thought that this CD came off the Naxos production line at a time when their recordings were improving beyond measure, and for a few years afterwards the PNRSO with Wit were entrusted with a number of major orchestral projects, for example the Tchaikovsky symphonies. They did not disappoint, and they don`t here.
There are many renderings of this music available on disc, one of the advantages of Naxos is of course the bargain price. Great music, superbly played, bright and clear recording, inexpensive. Highly recommended.