Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

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LEOS JANACEK (1854-1928) The Cunningly Little Vixen suite (1924) [16.28] Jealousy prelude (1906) [5.39] From The House of the Dead (1928) [6.02] The Makropoulos Case (symphonic synthesis by Jose Serebrier) [31.02] Czech State PO, Brno/Jose Serebrier rec 3-7 June 1996, Brno REFERENCE RECORDINGS  RR-75CD [59.40]



How admirable that Reference Recordings (a firm associated with high end sound quality) have embraced the less obvious repertoire. Janacek is hardly obscure. He is, however, not in the mainstream of concert and disc catalogues. It is notable that RR and Serebrier have recorded two volumes of orchestral Janacek and two volumes of orchestral Chadwick. May they continue their pursuit of the highest standards of hi-fi using the best of neglected music. I rather hope that they look at some of the orchestral works of Bax. A disc coupling Bax's Sixth Symphony and Winter Legends for piano and orchestra could be an absolute knockout both as an audio exhibition and as an complete artistic experience.

For the present disc we get some 'pure' Janacek but the two big items are confections assembled by Talich/Smetacek and Serebrier. The Cunning Little Vixen is the most immediately beautiful of his works. It begins heavily with chattering and stabbing figures from the orchestra. This is much more successful than Taras Bulba for example. At 4.10 a superb violin dance played with a cogently watery tone by the concertmaster of the Czech State PO. The atmosphere speaks of magic and woodland pools before the first section ends in crashing tragedy. The second and final part leaves the Lachian Dances way behind with all their inconsequential innocence. There is great emotive power familiar perhaps from Rimsky's Antar but with much more steel - a work of high and refined romance.

The two operatic suites sandwich two preludes however everything here derives from the operas. The atmosphere of the prelude is of baying unrest as you might expect from Jealousy. There are yelping horns (echoing Sinfonietta), a petulantly swirling violin solo, a trumpet section that is not just stratosphere but ionospheric, playfully complex eddies of romance and great clashing isobars of music. Do get to hear this music.

From the House of the Dead is claustrophobically similar to Jealousy with the repeat fanfare at end rumbling and tumbling in (Richard Straussian) hysterics. The prelude ends with a reminiscence of Sinfonietta.

The Serebrier's synthesis includes a dance of the grotesques and positively seethes with interest for the ear. The squealing violins toss and turn like oiled quicksilver. Barking horns bring the work to a superb climactic close.

Ten pages of helpful booklet notes in English only.

Recommended highly.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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