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LEOŠ JANÁCEK (1954-1928) Idyll for String Orchestra (1878) [30:10] Suite for Strings (1877) [21:59] Jupiter Orchestra/Gregory Rose Sinfonietta (1926) [23:18] Overture - Jealousy (1894) [5:58] The Fiddler's Child (1912) [12:50] The Cunning Little Vixen Suite (1937) [17:43] Taras Bulba (1918) [23:28] Czech PO/Jirí Behlolávek   Recorded Blackheath Concert Halls, 26 May, 22-23 July 1992 (Jupiter Orchestra); Smetana Hall, Prague 3-6 June 1990 (Sinfonietta); Spanish Hall, Prague Castle, 22 June 1991 (Jealousy); 10-11 March 1992 (Fiddler's Child), 3-4 Feb 1991 (Vixen and Taras); CHANDOS 2for1 CHAN 241-7




This is a good Janacek compilation made all the more attractive at the 2-for-1 price.

The first two works: Idyll and Suite (both for strings), are early pieces dating from before the works which sluggishly made Janacek's name internationally. They are a meld of idioms: Dvorák, Elgar even. The music is sometimes gently angular, stately, serenade-like. They are recorded and performed with sympathy and attention to orchestral detail. Their message is a gentle and relaxed one rather like the Elgar Serenade.

The Sinfonietta rounds out the first disc. This is a work of youthful intoxication written by an elderly man. The performance and recording are revelatory and vie with the very fine performance by Serebrier with the Czech State Phil on Reference Recordings. Listen at track 14 (1:40), Allegretto, to the divided brass choir as one section sings and another provides a violently spat accompaniment. The Andante has superb depth of sound and clarity: red-blooded urgent sadness. In the Moderato the rocking accompanimental figure usually lost in the background here comes across very clearly. Later the movement opens out into drama with (2.40) wonderfully controlled shrieking birdcalls. The 'yelp factor' in the horns is not the equal of the Serebrier recording but is still impressive. The Allegretto is imposing and the final Andante Con Moto is suitably ecclesiastical as well as celebratory.

The second disc opens with a rather underpowered (by comparison with Serebrier on Reference Recordings) performance of the overture Jealousy. The Cunning Little Vixen suite, in two parts, also lacks the woodland magic and 'charge' which Serebrier found for it in the Reference Recordings issue. It compares rather limply with the Serebrier but all things are relative and is enjoyable enough without being as impressive as the Reference Recordings account.

This is followed by the somewhat discursive The Fiddler's Child which takes as its subject a grotesque folk-tale. You will recall that Dvorák wrote a whole cycle of symphonic poems on horrific folk ballads. The piece has the same 'staying power' as those Dvorák works. The atmosphere is not comparable with Sinfonietta; not even Taras Bulba. The world from which this emerges is that of the Lachian Dances rather than the empowered enchantment of the Glagolytic Mass and the Sinfonietta. Finally we come to the Taras Bulba triptych. This too suffers by comparison with the very high standards achieved by Serebrier. It is by no means an inferior performance although the piece strikes me as rather overblown and not a patch on the Sinfonietta, its usual stablemate. Chandos's sound is reliably warm and big. Behlolavek's insights bring out the poetic and reflective rather than the heroic-dramatic. One of these days I must refresh my memory on the sound of the original Ancerl Supraphon recordings from the 1960s.

The design details are, as ever with Chandos, extremely well handled and their attractive choice of the picture 'Old Man and New Painting' by Carl Larsson, 1883, is noteworthy. Speaking of notes, these are in English only (as are all of three 2-for-1s I have reviewed for the site) and are perceptive and enjoyable to read. The authors are the conductor Gregory Rose and Graham Melville-Mason. This is a departure for the usually trilingual Chandos discs. Those notes apparently draw together material from the original issues and it is to Chandos's great credit that they mention the cuts made by Behlolavek in the Vixen suite.

Summing up then. this is an attractive collection which is good value for money. It introduces you to a great deal of Janacek all for the price of a single disc. The sound quality is impeccable. The Sinfonietta is given a world-standard performance. The other performances (with the exception of the voltage-less Jealousy) are never less than good and enjoyable. Recommended.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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