There are several reasons
to give this disc an unqualified welcome.
fans should be acquiring it without
delay, and those as yet unconverted
should seriously consider it. Sixty
minutes may be slightly short measure
for some but it is quality all the way.
understanding of Janáček’s output
is more biased towards his symphonic
and choral output. Anyone with a similar
understanding can rejoice in the presentation
of three lesser-known works - this is
the first reason for welcome. The
Eternal Gospel stands with ease
alongside the Glagolitic Mass
in terms of impact and form, as The
Ballad of Blaník might alongside
Taras Bulba and The Fiddler’s
Child alongside the Concertino.
Operatic Janáčekians have the prospect
of the orchestral suite from the deeply
wacky The Excursions of Mr Brouček
for entertainment – and boy is it entertaining!
common thread here is the spirit of
Czech nationalism that Janáček
with which imbued each of the
works, and Nigel Simeone’s booklet note
brings out the salient points readily
The second reason is
undoubtedly the performance that each
The Eternal Gospel
opens things with tremendous presence,
strong - though not overly so - in the
strings and brass. It carries the feeling
of a stage work beginning in media
res though within the gravitas of
a timeless frame – a statement of the
eternal, which is of course what Janáček
was after. Much of the sung duration
falls to Adrian Thompson as Joachim
of Fiore and his slightly piquant tenor
catches the edge present in Janáček’s
vocal line, though that is not to suggest
anything distasteful in the execution.
Gwyneth-Ann Jeffers’ part may
not be as large but dramatically it
is important, and is delivered with
assurance and in full-toned voice. The
contribution of the Edinburgh Festival
Chorus registers keenly too through
impressive vocal weight and texturing,
though perhaps, as with the soloists,
it might lack slightly the instinctive
linguistic response of a Czech choir.
A great mini tone poem
is how I would characterise The Ballad
of Blaník. The heft and hue
of the orchestra reign free under Volkov’s
spirited direction, which is the case
throughout and, surely Volkov is the
third reason to investigate this release.
It’s amazing to think that this is Volkov’s
first commercial release, such has been
the assiduousness with which the BBC
have recorded him and the BBCSSO in
recent years. Talented undoubtedly beyond
his years (29) his music-making has
about it the wide-eyed wonder of youth;
long may this blissful union remain
in place, so rarely does it happen.
To my mind it is precisely this union
of qualities that any performance of
needs. Other qualities that
make this particularly memorable are
Volkov’s keen ear for orchestral sonority
in Moon Waltz and the contrast
inherent in The Song of the Hussites.
I am sure it is Volkov’s youth that
gives much of the fire he finds within
the internal dynamics and pacing of
Of all the works included
here the most haunting is The Fiddler’s
Child, with the orchestra’s leader
Elizabeth Layton stepping forward for
the solo part. Having read the story
upon which the ballad was based prior
to hearing it, I found it all nigh impossible
not to feel anguish for the poor child.
Layton’s delivery, like Volkov’s, is
both artful and direct to befit a tale
of such seriousness.
The fourth reason is
Hyperion themselves. Through much publicised
difficulties of late they continue to
offer recordings that maintain high
production standards, promote genuine
talent and challenge the serious listener
in repertoire of real worth; if that
doesn’t deserve support, what does?