Czech Philharmonic & Jiri Belohlavek – Janáček: Glagolitic Mass; Taras Bulba; Sinfonietta; The Fiddler’s Child

Review Czech Philharmonic & Jiri Belohlavek – Janáček: Glagolitic Mass; Taras Bulba; Sinfonietta; The Fiddler’s Child

If there was a composer of the Slavic-speaking world whose compositions speak a unique language that has almost nothing in common with the musical language of his compatriots Dvorak and Smetana, then this is Leoš Janáček. Born in Moravia in 1854, thirteen years younger than Dvorak and thirty years younger than Smetana, his musical idiom has nothing in common with the Bohemian-pleasing works of the two older composers. Brilliantly bright orchestral timbres produced by brass instruments in the compositions of Janáček, who, like his composing compatriots, likes borrowing folk music, tell from an untamed understanding of music that thrives on strong contrasts and extremely dazzling colors. Once again, there are no Bohemian-pleasing aspects. If you want to get a first impression of the special sound world of Leoš Janáček, it is a good idea to choose his Sinfonietta from 1926 as an introduction. This orchestral piece, which lasts less than 25 minutes, tells in compressed form of Janáček's enormous compositional and orchestration skills, which culminate in a harmony that points to modernity regardless of references to folklore. If one has thus adjusted to the peculiarities of this composer, which never really are precepted as disturbing despite all the penchant for modernity and sometimes enormous volume of the brass sections, there is nothing against extending his Janáček spectrum to song works, such as his Glagolitic Mass (Mša glagolskaja) for soloists, choir, organ and orchestra, which, of course, have nothing in common with the mass compositions of his Western composer colleagues. Janáček, with his theatrical response comparable at most to Verdi in his Requiem, approaches the subject of mass, with his Glagolitic work, written within a quarter of a century before the First World War, saying "I want to show people how to talk to God." Out came a unique choral work that has nothing to do with a mass in the common sense, not only because of its Slavonic language. Janáček himself described it as a "joyful Mass" and thus he sums up the mood of this choral work in a nutshell, despite its solidarity with the deep faith of Slavic people. And those who have no faith in piety always can enjoy the enormous colorfulness and liveliness of this unique composition, the central work on the new Janáček album of the Czech Philharmonic under its recently deceased chief conductor Jiri Belohlavek, with the participation of the Philharmonic Men's Choir and a roster of top-class soloists in interpretive best form, of which the tenor Stuart Neill stands out with enormous creative power.

The already mentioned Sinfonietta is included on this album in a colorful rendition by the Czech Philharmonic, who are among the few orchestras in the world passing by the sonic globalization, that is, the unification of the style of play. It is a bit irritating that Jiri Belohlavek is so relaxed about the opening fanfare of the Sinfonietta, which in his interpretation otherwise serves perfectly the sometimes wild nature of Leoš Janáček. The fierceness of the ballad Taras Bulba, which, like the Sinfonietta, is written in the purest Janáček manner and immediately engages the listener, neither the conductor nor the orchestra owe something. As a seldom heard "encore" on this album, the tone poem The Fiddler's Child for solo violin and orchestra tells in dark orchestral colors a gruesome story in the manner of the Erlkönig poem.

Dieses Janáček-Album, das zum neunzigsten Todestag des Komponisten erschienen ist und posthum eindrücklich auf die dirigentische Gestaltungskraft Jiri Belohlaveks verweist, empfiehlt sich nicht zuletzt wegen der gelungenen Aufnahmetechnik des Labels Decca, die die herrliche Akustik des Rudolfinums angemessen einfängt, in dem Supraphon über Jahrzehnte hinweg, beginnend im Mono-Zeitalter den so eigenständigen Sound der Tschechischen Philharmoniker dokumentiert hat.

This Janáček album, which appeared on the ninetieth anniversary of the death of the composer and posthumously refers to the conducting power of Jiri Belohlavek, is recommended not least because of the successful recording technique of the label Decca, which adequately captures the magnificent acoustics of the Rudolfinum, in which concert auditorium Supraphon for decades the Czech Philharmonic's very own sound, staring with the mono-era.

Hibla Gerzmava, soprano
Veronika Hajnová, mezzo
Stuart Neill, tenor
Jan Martiník, bass
Czech Philharmonic
Jiří Bělohlávek, conductor

Czech Philharmonic & Jiri Belohlavek – Janáček: Glagolitic Mass; Taras Bulba; Sinfonietta; The Fiddler’s Child

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