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
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.