01 Raab – Part I (25:49)
02 Raab – Part II (13:16)
03 Raab – Part III (14:05)
Total time 53:00
Recorded 1971 in Supraphon studios, Prague.
First release on Recommended Records, R.R.23, 1985.
Raab . . . . . . . . . . Milada Jirgová
Eolnas . . . . . . . . . . Pavel Jurkovič
Ronochaj . . . . . . . . . . Jaroslav Tománek
Joshua . . . . . . . . . . Vratislav Vinický
Mother . . . . . . . . . . Vlasta Pecháčková
Father . . . . . . . . . . Vratislav Vinický
Sisters . . . . . . . . . . Milada Jirgová, Jitka Čechová
Narrator . . . . . . . . . . Radovan Lukavský
Viola . . . . . . . . . . Karel Špelina
According to Lenka Dohnalová’s 2000 article ‘Electro-acoustic Music in Czech Republic’, electroacoustic music started in Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s thanks to equipment facilities provided to composers by national radio studios of Plzeň (Pilsen) and Praha (Prague). Miloslav Kabeláč (whose 1972’s ‘E. Fontibus Bohemicis – Op.55’ is considered a seminal composition) taught new music to a whole generation of pupils during the 1970s, including Petr Kotik and Jaroslav Krček. The latter (b1939), a radio producer, conductor, classical and folk music composer, is famous to experimental music lovers for his exquisite electroacoustic piece ‘Sonaty Slavičkove’, composed 1970 and included in the legendary ReR compilation LP ‘Aide Mémoire-Folk Music-Sonaty Slavičkove’ (1985). During the 1970s, Krček worked as musical director for Plzen Radio and Supraphon record label (see my Wikipedia article for more info).
Raab (aka Raab The Harlot) was created in Czechoslovakia as ‘Nevěstka Raab (The Prostitute Raab) – An Electronic Opera’ in 1971 . Best described as an electroacoustic oratorio, it was created in the Prague Electronic Music Studio in 1970-71. It was banned by the communist regime in 1972. This was a time for many contemporary avantgarde music dramas like Iannis Xenakis’ ‘Nuits’ (1968) or Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s ‘Requiem Für Einen Jungen Dichter’ (1969). The story of Raab (or Rahab as she is known in the Bible) is based on the Fall of Jericho from the Book of Joshua, a Jewish king planning to conquer the town: “Joshua son of Nun sent two spies out from Shittim secretly and instructed them: “Find out what you can about the land, especially Jericho. They stopped at the house of a prostitute named Rahab and spent the night there“ [Joshua 2:1].
Rahab (unidentified singer pictured here) helps the two spies and hide them from the King of Jericho’s guards, thus helping the Israelites conquer Jericho. The libretto is by Zdeněk Barborka using an invented language that can pass for an approximation of aramaic, Jesus’ native tongue (check the sound files on this Wikipedia article). The opera opens with an introductory recitative in czech, followed (at 4′) by one of several long instrumental crescendos build from slowed-down trumpets and cymbals crashes reaching to a climax before a long decaying low rumble, an allusion to the trumpets used by Joshua during the 7-days siege of Jericho. The sound is reminiscent of the bell casting scene in Tarkovsky’s film Andrei Rublev, 1966. It sets the tone for the rest of a hieratic, imposing score. The opera relies mostly on vocals with occasional electroacoustic interjections in the form of processed acoustic instruments like viola, tam-tam or full orchestra, transformed through studio treatment and montage. Vocal deliveries are pretty diverse, ranging from singing to sprechgesang, from the plaintive to the exhalted, from emphatic to hushed voices. The cast includes core members of the Chorea Bohemica ensemble from which will stem the Musica Bohemica ensemble, to be founded by Jaroslav Krček in 1975 (see next post).
As far as I can tell, the opera wasn’t staged in 1971 or at any time during the communist regime. In 1989, after the Velvet Revolution put an end to communism in Czech country, the LP was finally issued by local label Panton, four years after its original release by Chris Cutler on his own Recommended Records. A new production of Nevěstka Raab was staged in 2003 at Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU) in Brno, with costume and stage design by Radka Mizerová (b1976). Another production was presented in 2004, by stage director Magdalena Krčková (b1977) at Jičín’s Cultural House (Kulturním dome v Jicíne). Interestingly, this performance included dancers as well as actors and singers.
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Lenka Dohnalová lists several electro-acoustic works by Krček:
- Sonáty slavíčkové (Nightingales Sonatas), 1969
- Nevěstka Raab (Prostitute Raab), 1971
- Koncert (Concert), 1978
- Rozmluvy s časem (Talks with Time), 1990
- O světlo světa (O lux mundi), 1992