> Leos Janacek - Idyll [GPJ]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Leoš JANÁCEK (1854-1928)
Idyla (Idyll) for String Orchestra
Mládí (Youth) for wind sextet

David Shostac, flute, Allan Vogel, oboe, David Shifrin, clarinet, Kenneth Munday, bassoon, Robin Graham, horn (all in Mládí), Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz
Recorded at the Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena, California USA, December 1980 and November 1981
APEX 7559 79680 [43:32]


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Music from the beginning and end of a creative life here; Janáček’s Idyll for strings, composed in 1878 when he was just 24, coupled with his Mládí – Youth – for woodwind sextet, written around the time of his seventieth birthday. As you might expect, for Janácek’s mature style took so long to emerge, in the Idyll there are few hints of the later music. Indeed, as the booklet notes point out, the work is shot through with the influence of Dvorák. Despite the age difference, the two were good friends, and had gone on a walking tour of Bohemia in 1877, the year Janáček conducted his older friend’s Serenade for Strings. Perhaps the vigorous fourth movement, with its short repetitive folk-dance phrases is the only place where hints of the later Janáček may be felt, but only faintly. The Idyll is undoubtedly an attractive piece, however, with effective and idiomatic writing for the string orchestra.

Mládí is another matter. It is a truly original work of wind chamber music. In fact, there’s nothing quite like it in the entire repertoire, though it’s a real surprise that more composers haven’t used this particular line-up of the classic wind quintet plus bass clarinet. The extra weight of this instrument’s tone really transforms the medium, and makes balance within the ensemble much less of a problem for players and audience.

It is not, however, an easy piece to play, and requires unshakeable ensemble plus a degree of virtuosity from all six players. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra players have the necessary qualities, and they have clearly addressed with care all the challenges posed by the work in its typically twitchy tempo changes and flurries of instrumental colour. There will be those who might wish for a more ‘earthy’ sound at times. On the other hand, there is some magically beautiful and expressive playing; the last minutes of the superb Andante sostenuto are a case in point. Great solo playing, but impeccable chording too.

I could wish for a greater sense of culmination in the finale, which feels somewhat restrained. Nothing goes wrong, but the ending seems tame. Nonetheless, both this and the Idyll receive fine performances, and the recordings are of a suitable standard. In fact Mládí is particularly well captured, which is impressive when you realise how hard microphone placings are for this kind of ensemble.

Gwyn Parry-Jones


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