Hit-makers Hapka & Horacek release new pop/chanson CD "Strazce Plamene"

Even after all those years, since they began cooperating in the mid-1980s in communist Czechoslovakia, musician Petr Hapka and lyricist Michal Horacek remain one of the Czech Republic's most acclaimed artistic partnerships. Since the 80s they have collaborated on just a handful of albums, but produced some of the country's most well-known chansons and pop songs sung by some of the country's best singers. Hits like "Levandulova" - My Lavender One (Hana Hegerova), "Cizi zena v cizim pokoji" - Strange Woman in a Strange Room (rocker Michal Kocab) and the more recent "Divam se, divam" - I look and I see (sung by firecracker Lucie Bila and Hapka himself) propelled the duo to ever greater recognition and critical acclaim. Now they have released a new album: Strazce plamene.

The title could be translated as something like Guardians of the Flame and the first track is performed by none other than famous Czech folksinger Jaromir Nohavica. Strazce plamene, Hapka & Horacek have stated, was years in the making, but the amount of time spent on and off in production paid off: the album is richly textured, mixing melancholy with pathos and moments of the carnivalesque: all well-known Hapka & Horacek trademarks. As usual the authors try to interlace and interweave the material into a coherent whole - and succeed admirably.

Parts of the CD then come across like material from a long-lost pre-war cabaret. A case in point is "Otevrete okna, aby duse mohla ven" - Open the Window, So the Soul May Escape. It's sung by Daniel Landa.

There are interesting contrasts: the gentle versus the playful and brash: Hegerova contrasted with singer Kirschner or Basikova, Landa with Nohavica, and so on. Among genuinely fascinating tracks include "Na Hotelu v Olomouci" - At a Hotel in Olomouc, or "Vidouci ale Nevidena" - Seeing but Unseen, where the vocals are both fleeting and almost ethereal. The album is sensitive and lends itself to careful listening. And, it's fairly safe to say that long-term as well as newer fans of Michal Horacek's emotional lyrics and Petr Hapka's subtle orchestration, will find a lot to be excited about.

Incidentally, the creators are planning to go ahead with one real "first" with the album, that is to record an accompanying video for every single one of the album's eleven tracks. The first video was shot by one of the Czech Republic's greatest ever filmmakers Otakar Vavra, whose works include films like "Witches' Hammer" and "Jan Zizka". Mr Vavra directed his first feature in the 1930s and is 95 now, but remains a force on the Czech scene. Mr Horacek and Mr Hapka joked in the media it wasn't too hard to convince him to direct even though it was really only his "first" video.