Author Topic: Czech Composers post Martinu  (Read 7960 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Czech Composers post Martinu
« on: October 03, 2007, 04:30:36 PM »
Maciek is doing a superb job in bringing lesser known Polish composers to the attention of members of the site. It seems to me that it would be good if someone with a lot more knowledge than myself could do the same for Czech composers of the generations following Bohuslav Martinu.

The only such composer I know at all is Viktor Kalabis(1923-2006). On visits to Prague I managed to pick up 3 CDs containing his Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5, the Concerto for Orchestra, Violin Concertos Nos.1 and 2, Harpsichord Concerto, Symphonic Variations and
one or two other orchestral pieces. His music impressed me and suggested a serious composer in the post Martinu, Bartok, Shostakovich vein. Like many other Czech composers he had to compose during the dark years of repression after the Prague Spring.

There are other names-Jindrich Feld, Jan Hanus, Ivo Jirasek, Miloslav Kabelac, Jan Kapr, Isa Krejci, Jaromir Podesva,Milan Slavicky, Vladimir Sommer,Jiri Valek-for example. Their music is discussed in Mark Morris's invaluable "The Pimlico Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Composers". Hanus's 2nd Symphony, Krejci's 2nd Symphony and two pieces by Kabelac have appeared in old Ancerl performances but I have not heard anything else by any of these composers.

Is there worthwhile music by these composers waiting to be discovered? Anyone know?

Offline val

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2007, 10:25:10 PM »
The two pieces of Kabelac, included in the extraordinary CD with the absolute version of Janacek's Glagolitic Mass, by Ancerl are very impressive: Hamlet Improvisations and the very remarkable "Mistery of time".

Offline Cato

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2007, 02:36:51 AM »
Jiri Valek is the only name I recognize: a friend had a Supraphon recording of a symphony by Valek many decades ago, and my impression of the excerpt he played is that the work seemed worthwhile.

This website

 http://www.musica.cz/comp/valek.htm

reveals that Valek is up to 18 symphonies now.  But beware!  It also contains highly inscrutable sentences e.g.

" Valek's concerto for marimba and orchestra, the first Czech composition of its kind, expresses the composer's ideas of unofficial contemporary festivity."  (My emphasis)

With the deepest, crimsonest embarrassment     :-[    must I admit to never having thunk a single idea about "unofficial contemporary festivity."

I apparently must throw off the shackles of constantly thinking about official contemporary festivity!    8)

Anyway, Amazon shows CD's for a flutist with the same name, but after searching through about 6 pages, I gave up: even advanced search was no help. 
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pjme

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2007, 03:01:17 AM »
In early ( ca 1960-1975) Supraphon days, most of these composers had at least a few (important) works recorded; often with the very best Czech musicians.
As far as I know ( i have several LP's gathering dust in the cellar) the quality mix was/is as "natural" as in any other country. Kabelac' oeuvre is uneven, but the best works ( indeed, Hamlet improvisations, Mystery of time, Inventions for percussion..) are very impressive. Slavicky, Feld, Sommer, Krejci all wrote -at least- "very good " music.  :)

I'll check my collection for more direct information / recommendation.

Peter


lukeottevanger

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2007, 03:52:22 AM »
Some other names - some I have CDs/LPs of, some I don't know so well:

Karel Husa
Jarmil Burghauser
Marek Kopelent
Oldrich Korte
Petr Eben

Alois Haba - a very important figure - is post-Martinu, but only by three years - I doubt he is what is meant by the title of the thread. In the same way, strictly speaking, we should include those composers born after Martinu who died at Auschwitz - Schulhoff, Ullmann, Krasa, Pavel Haas and Gideon Klein. Of these, Klein truly belonged to the next generation (b 1919) and in that respect represents the greatest lost potential. He would have become a major name, I think.

In passing - I also have a copy of Morris's Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Composers, and find it very useful for exploring areas of the repertoire with which I am unfamiliar (last night, for instance, I flipped to a random page in the Morris, found a composer I know little of, and did a little shopping on Amazon!). But it needs to be pointed out that the book is hideously full of misprints, bad editing and omissions. Composers names are misspelt; pieces are given the wrong key; works given the highest recommendation in the text are inexplicably missed off the list of 'recommended pieces' (Janacek's Sinfonietta, for heaven's sake).  I'm not talking about whether I agree or disagree with Morris's opinions on this or that piece or composer (he has a nice way with damning a piece, I must say!).

Val - I would agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the Ancerl Glagolitic as 'absolute' were it not for the fact that he is performing the 'simplified' version which does not represent Janacek's cataclysmic intentions for the piece, and was only ever intended for the premiere, in which the orchestra and chorus struggled with certain aspects of the original score. Although the well-known version of the Glagolitic is awe-inspiring, it is put in the shade by the original, with its (literally) apocalyptic vision in the Veruju. Unfortunately, as yet, this has only had a single serviceable recording, and it is a mystery to me why conductors haven't taken the original score up again, since it became available to them in the 1990s. Inertia, I suppose, or laziness. We had a discussion of this edition (and I detailed the differences it entails) in this thread

Kullervo

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2007, 04:32:59 AM »
Post-Martinů? We don't even have a Martinů thread!

Offline Maciek

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2007, 09:15:04 AM »
There's a smattering of Czech and Slovak composers at Warsaw Autumn every year - I'll have to leaf through the programs to give you the details though, somehow the names escape me - nothing so far has ever blown me away. Martin Smolka, IIRC, is either Czech or Slovak, right?

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2007, 12:57:56 PM »
Post-Martinů? We don't even have a Martinů thread!

Sorry if you think that I was jumping the gun on this. Maybe I should have checked to see if there was a Martinu thread and then started one myself first? I was simply inspired by the threads Maciek has started on Polish composers who were totally unknown to me.

Martinu was a very fine composer and obviously deserves his own thread. Glad to see there is one now!

However.....if others would still like to add to this one.......!

Offline Brewski

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2007, 01:04:55 PM »
I'm mostly lurking with interest, since the only names familiar to me are Husa and Kopelent (aside from the ones Luke mentions who died in Auschwitz, like Pavel Haas, whom I just discovered last year), and even those I haven't heard much of.

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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2007, 01:51:39 PM »
The figure who most intrigues me out of those mentioned is Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79). I have been listening again to his huge Passacaglia "The Mystery of Time" which was mentioned above. I first heard this piece in a radio broadcast over 40 years ago and was able to get it on CD-not coupled with the Janacek but with Jan Hanus's Symphony Concertante for Organ, Harp, Timpani and Strings-in the Supraphon Karel Ancerl Gold Edition series. The recording on the CD dates from 1960 but still gives a very good idea of the sumptuous power of this masterly orchestral showpiece which really does deserve to be much better known and which builds in tempo and strength through a succession of massive climaxes superbly orchestrated. I am absolutely sure that a very considerable number of members of this site would absolutely love the work!

Kabelac has been described as ranking, along with Dvorak and Martinu, as among the very greatest of Czech symphonists yet the afore-mentioned Mark Morris passes over him relatively quickly. Morris does, however, note the combination of "Oriental and primitive folk music, combined with Gregorian chant and elements of 12-tone composition". Kabelac wrote 8 symphonies for a variety of combinations of instruments and voices and was a much admired pioneer of electronic music and musique concrete within the Czech Republic.

However, to avoid misunderstanding-"The Mystery of Time", which dates from 1953-57, is by no means a 'difficult' work to assimilate(although it is very loud for much of its duration!). There are clear echoes of Janacek(a composer Kabelac venerated) but also an almost Nordic(Sibelius/Nielsen) sense of inexorable power and menace.

I do wish that I knew more of what sounds like a fascinating composer!

pjme

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2007, 12:43:04 AM »
Miloslav Kabelac is indeed a fascinating composer. He's in my list of "loners" - Havergal Brian, Rued Langgaard, Charles Ives, André Jolivet,Matthijs Vermeulen ..even Olivier Messiaen and (the "serious") Darius Milhaud. Strong music ,often with a hard edge. Neither serial or "avant-garde", nor late Romantic or purely Expressionistic.
His output is uneven, but a strong personality and character shine through.

At his best ( Mystery of time, Hamlet improvisation,Reflections, 9 miniatures for orchestra , 8 inventions for percussion) he can be overwhelmingly powerful . Some works ( Symph. nr 5 "Drammatica for (wordless)soprano & orch.) -Symph. nr 8 for soprano, chorus,organ and percussion, some pianoworks) have an almost repetitive relentlesness & urgency that becomes tiring .
New versions of these works would be useful, of course. Most recordings I have are still quite good ( Ancerl was a friend) ,but I'm sure new and other insights are possible.

During a trip to Prague I found a little cantata/song for chorus and orchestra 'Milostna" that is heartbreakingly simple,sweet and moving. i wonder what else can be discovered...

PS I have symphonies 3.4.5.8. Will talk about them later.

Peter


pjme

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2007, 11:10:08 AM »
http://www.musica.cz/cdshop/indexeng.html

Czech Music Information Centre
Besedni 3
118 00 Praha 1
Czech Republic

Unfortunately quite a lot of the most interesting items are OOP. Even so, there's still plenty to choose from.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2007, 01:31:34 AM »
Maciek is doing a superb job in bringing lesser known Polish composers to the attention of members of the site. It seems to me that it would be good if someone with a lot more knowledge than myself could do the same for Czech composers of the generations following Bohuslav Martinu.

The only such composer I know at all is Viktor Kalabis(1923-2006). On visits to Prague I managed to pick up 3 CDs containing his Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5, the Concerto for Orchestra, Violin Concertos Nos.1 and 2, Harpsichord Concerto, Symphonic Variations and
one or two other orchestral pieces. His music impressed me and suggested a serious composer in the post Martinu, Bartok, Shostakovich vein. Like many other Czech composers he had to compose during the dark years of repression after the Prague Spring.

There are other names-Jindrich Feld, Jan Hanus, Ivo Jirasek, Miloslav Kabelac, Jan Kapr, Isa Krejci, Jaromir Podesva,Milan Slavicky, Vladimir Sommer,Jiri Valek-for example. Their music is discussed in Mark Morris's invaluable "The Pimlico Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Composers". Hanus's 2nd Symphony, Krejci's 2nd Symphony and two pieces by Kabelac have appeared in old Ancerl performances but I have not heard anything else by any of these composers.

Is there worthwhile music by these composers waiting to be discovered? Anyone know?

Interesting thread. I would strongly recommend Kalabis Symphony 2 "Sinfonia Pacis"; a great work with a movingly redemptive tolling bell-like episode in the final section. There is/was a CD on Praga with Vaclav Smetacek conducting the Prague Symphony Orchestra (1974 recording). Infact the whole CD is a tribute to Smetacek. Also on the CD is an interesting Czech recording of Britten's Cantata Misericordium and also Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. There was, in my view, an even better recording of the Kalabis "Sinfonia Pacis" on an old Supraphon LP but it has, sadly, never made it to CD. The Praga CD no is PR 250 011.

I like Miloslav Kabelac's powerful Symphony 5 "Dramatic" on Panton (Ancerl conduct's with Suk's "Ripening"). I am hoping to get to a performance of Suk's Asrael Symphony in London next year (BBC SO).

My favourite Czech work is Novak's "The Storm" which cries out for a modern recording. Novak belonged, however, to an earlier generation than Martinu.

Sadly, I was not allowed to visit any CD shops when I was in Prague, for a few days, over the summer  >:(
« Last Edit: October 06, 2007, 01:40:53 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2007, 01:00:37 PM »
Thanks for these recommendations! I have just now ordered the Kalabis 2nd and Kabelac 5th from Amazon dealers in the USA!

I agree that Novak deserves more attention. His Autumn Symphony(which is described as "highly regarded" in his native country) and the May Symphony intrigue me but there are apparently no recordings.

If I took my bank manager on holiday with me I wouldn't be "allowed to visit CD shops" either. Fortunately I don't!! :)
« Last Edit: October 06, 2007, 01:18:02 PM by Dundonnell »

lukeottevanger

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2007, 11:03:13 PM »
Earlier I baldly gave list of name composers not previously mentioned of whom I have music on CD, but I neglected to comment much on some of them. To be honest, that's because I hadn't listened to some of these discs in a long time. I've relistened to a couple of them and am a little more able to give an opinion:

Burghauser - a fine composer inspired above all by Martinu (it says), the CD I have contrast two earlier works - extracts from a ballet and an opera, very colourful, fun, tonal and certainly bearing traces of both Martinu and Janacek - and three later ones, post-1960, all of which impress me particularly. Firstly, Seven Reliefs (large orch., in this case cond. Ancerl), which is made up of seven 2-3 minute meditations on certain aspects of 'modern man' - this is a powerful 12 tone piece;Burghauser often seems preoccupied to use his row as part of an audible process, e.g. building up an ostinato texture which gradually changes internally as it moves through the row. An intense and very well orchestrated piece. Then come The Ways, eight pieces for strings, guitar, harp, cimbalom and percussion, based on the Beatitudes. Again, a personal use of 12-tone techniques: Burghauser concentrates on the first six notes of the row in the first half of each piece (Blessed are the....') and then flips to the second six in the second half ('...for they shall be...'). Both pieces frequently offer a curious but effective mix of dodecaphony and the slow textural/harmonic shifts of minimalism. Interesting. Finally, some excerpts from The Happy Country, a cantata for orch., women's voices and narrator. In some respects this seems to unite the two types of music previously heard - it is a work full of Czech colour, lyricism and warmth, but of some harmonic complexity. I liked it quite a bit.

Korte - the one disc I have of this composer contains his early Sinfonietta, his Troubadour Songs and his symphonic poem The Story of the Flutes. Unfortunately, IMO, the middle work looms quite large in the centre of the disc, and whilst it is a rather beautiful work in its own way (and very typical of its time and place, I think - these are sparsely accompanied settings of medieval poetry done in a quasi-medieval style, though with elements of the 20th century very evident) it sticks out rather. The early Sinfonietta (written age 19 IIRC) is a very fine work - hard to imagine why this piece provoked such outrage in early Communist Czechslovakia, but it did - run a search on Korte and unsurprisingly many of the results concern the stifling of his voice, his imprisonment, his working as a manual labourer. Even more of the results, however, reinforce the following judgement: Korte has written two masterpieces, his Piano Sonata (which I've now seen over and over pronounced as one of the finest modern piano sonatas, and even one review which calls it and the Martinu sonatas the finest Czech sonatas after Novak, which raises Janacek-related questions!) and The Story of the Flutes. I've ordered the Piano Sonata (Moravec), so can't give a judgement yet; I need to listen to The Story of the Flutes again, but it seems to be a powerful, dramatic piece, full of integrity. FWIW it was certainly picked up by many major Czech conductors (Ancerl, Kubelik, Matacic, Turnovsky and others.....) in the years after it was written and given plenty of performances, more than a work of this type might expect.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2007, 11:06:33 PM by lukeottevanger »

pjme

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #15 on: October 07, 2007, 12:59:48 AM »




Petr Eben : (from Hyperion) :
Petr Eben is one of the foremost composers from the Czech Republic. His reputation extends well beyond his native country and his works are frequently performed. He was born on 22 January 1929 at Zamberk and grew up in Cesky Krumlov in Southern Bohemia, where he learned to play both the piano and the organ. During the war he was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, and once hostilities had ceased he began to study the piano and composition at the Prague Academy of Music. Since 1955 he has taught in the Department of Musical Theory at Charles University in Prague, and since 1990 has been a professor at the Academy. Although composing forms the central focus of his activity, he also gives many concerts - primarily performing his own works - and is much sought-after as an improviser on both the piano and the organ. In this capacity he performs at festivals throughout Europe, America and Australia. Despite his creative diversity, Petr Eben devotes himself to two particular areas of composition - choral and organ music. His works for the organ are among his most popular, including the four-movement cycle Sonntagsmusik, Laudes, Biblical Dances, Okna ('Windows') - after Marc Chagall - for trumpet and organ, two choral fantasies, Mutationes for two organs, Landscapes of Patmos, Hommage à Buxtehude, Hommage à Purcell for solo organ, and the two major cycles, Faust and Job.

Petr Eben was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of London's Royal College of Organists in 2000

The music on the CD is bold, rythmically strong and quite expressionistic in feeling. A symphonic poem Vox clamantis for 3 trumpets & orch. ,the 2nd organconcerto and a Missa cum populo ( brass, percussion, organ ,choir + the churchgoers)

The Panton Kabelac disk has two late works :
Antiphonies - symphony nr 8 ( two choirs, coloratura soprano, organ and 6 percussion ( it was premiered by the Percussions de Strasbourg). Not my favourite work. It lasts ca 30 mins., texts from the bible. The soprano has -I think- the toughest job : murmurs, shouts, extremely high notes, soft melodic lines - set against the the often massive sound of organ & percussion...
Metamorphosis 2 on the chorale Hospodine pomiluj ny for piano & orch. ( Metamorphosis 1 is for choir).
In six short variations Kabelac conjures up a very strange soundworld - repetitive, minimalistic, hieratic, stark. I will listen again today.

Peter

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2007, 06:17:23 AM »
Just received and listened to my imported copy of Miloslav Kabelac's 5th symphony "Dramatic" on a Panton CD with the Czech Philharmonic under Ancerl(coupled with Suk's 'Ripening').

Although the recording is the public premiere from April 1961 and very definitely shows its age I was bowled over by the quality of the music. It anticipates a great deal of now more popular post-modern/post-romantic trends in the music written, for example, by composers like Gorecki, Sumera, Part etc. There is an intensity to the work which I found highly impressive. The use throughout of a coloratura soprano works beautifully.

A real find and highly recommended!

lukeottevanger

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2007, 10:09:59 AM »
Following the discussions and recommendations on this thread, I ordered that CD too, amongst others. I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but after your post I think I'll give it a spin tonight!

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #18 on: June 04, 2009, 03:06:40 PM »
This new cd of Petr Eben's early Symphonia gregoriano for organ and orchestra sounds enticing :)

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2009/June09/Eben_CD40151.htm

Just for the record...Eben died in October 2007.

snyprrr

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Re: Czech Composers post Martinu
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2009, 08:44:15 AM »
I accidentally just destroyed my whole post :-[ :-\ :(
...haha, so now I will punish you with this, haha...

ok...

I've been listening to Husa's Pulitzer Prize winning SQ No.3 from 1969. I had been waiting quite a while to finally hear this missing piece of the '60s US SQ puzzle. Shapey, Carter, Perle, Kirchner, Druckman, Brown, Shifrin,... you know, the usual suspects.

I had built this piece up in my head (much like I did with R. Murray Schafer), but what finally hit my ears was quite a relevatory disappointment. So, apparently Husa was the inventor of the 1980s SQ! What I thought was going to be THE '60s cool-experimental SQ turned out to be what I call the Iron Curtain Sound, that dreary, un-tonally-descript debressing, boring, noisy amalgam of sounds so typical of Polish and East German, etc..., composers of the '60s and '70s. A more "musical" Penderecki come to mind here, but not in the good way, for me. Husa's SQ sounds like improv on post-Bartok night music, but, really, the special effects here are more "note" based than "sound" based,...uh... Terry Riley's raga-grind-folk ritual-brutality-Kronos sound comes to mind.

In other words, the kind of "avant garde" I don't like. That it won the Pulitzer obviously... well, it WAS the '60s, ok, and Kirchner's SQ No.3 w/tape, quite a hoot!, won in 1967...so,...

I could really go on about the depressing qualities of this music. Ha, obviously I muuust like something about this grey-grimey music. The funny thing is, the notes state how the musicians are playing these great, rare, instruments, and yet with the close recording, and the grating qualities of the music, the instruments sound absolutely aweful!!! :o

Now I got it. If you like Gorecki's SQ style, but without the minimalism, and with more straight '60s goofy semi-improv sounding noise/Penderecki, but without the charm of Kagel, then Husa is for you. The Jacob Druckman SQ No.2, from 1966, is more of what I would have be looking for here (now therrre's an SQ that brims with '60s experimental exhuberance).

Perhaps Nancy Van de Vate's 1969 SQ sounds similar, too? I am being drawn to dreary SQs from 1967-73, I don't know why. Perhaps a Vanilla Fudge moment.

I think my point is, is that this type of SQ became de rigeur in the '80s, when inspiration was certainly flagging (right before the big tech boom of the '90s). It has that quasi-improv sound that makes me think of composers slumming. Segerstam almost comes to mind, but then again, Schnittke specialized in this kind of dreary sound; as a matter of fact, Schnittke's SQ No.1, from 1966, has similarities.

Anyhow,... this waaas the last of the GreatUnknown SQs of the ExperimentalEra that I hadn't heard, so, let me tell ya, it's nooot the last word in anything! I have noticed that certain composer hype precedes them. And, the recording is deliciously bad, in that great '60s way! ;D



Other than that, I did enjoy Music for Prague, but then, who hasn't?

 

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