Janacek: Sinfonietta, Capriccio, Suite from 'The Cunning Little Vixen' - Bavouzet / Gardner
Chandos CHSA 5142
Classical - Orchestral
Janacek: Sinfonietta; Capriccio; Suite from "The Cunning Little Vixen" (ed. Vaclav Talich, Sir Charles Mackerras)
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Edward Gardner (conductor)
Edward Gardner conducts the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in the opening volume in their series devoted to orchestral works by Leoš Janácek. It features three pieces that originate in Janácek’s late period, when his passionate feelings for Kamila Stösslová, thirty-seven years his junior, inspired an extraordinary flowering of his creative genius.
The Sinfonietta is one of Janácek’s most successful and popular works, famed for its opening movement, a brazen fanfare scored for a phalanx of brass with timpani. The remaining four movements, full of character, celebrate Janácek’s adopted town of Brno, blending occasional reflection with high-voltage exuberance.
Scored unusually for left-hand piano and an ensemble of brass and flute, the Capriccio is remarkable even among Janácek’s distinctive late works. Its overall effect is mercurial and capricious, in the composer’s words: ‘whimsical, all wilfulness and witticisms’. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet employs his formidable technique and interpretative flair in the solo part. The Cunning Little Vixen, Janácek’s opera from 1923, was not universally well received at first.
A number of its orchestral interludes, however, were immediately popular and after Janácek’s death in 1928 Václav Talich, a leading Czech conductor, extracted an orchestral suite, re-orchestrated by two young colleagues. Recently Sir Charles Mackerras restored Janácek’s striking original orchestration, the version recorded here.
Review by Graham Williams - September 30, 2014
Judging by this splendid first volume in a planned series of Janacek's orchestral works for Chandos, Edward Gardner's new appointment as Chief Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra from October 2015 has the potential to yield some exciting future releases.
This SACD opens with a dynamic performance of the popular 'Sinfonietta' that perfectly demonstrates the outstanding qualities of this orchestra. Gardner elicits incisive playing from the cohorts of brass in the fanfares that open and close the work, but he is also sensitive to the more lyrical and atmospheric passages such as those that open the third movement. Janacek's very individual use of percussion is especially well captured by the engineers and perhaps the only thing missing is the edge-of-the-seat excitement generated by Sir Charles Mackerras in his final account of this piece with the Czech Philharmonic (CD only).
Janacek's 'Capriccio', like the 'Sinfonietta ',was also written in 1926, this time at the request of the pianist Otakar Hollmann who having been wounded in the First World War could only use his left hand. Other Czech composers such as Martinu had already written works for Hollmann so Janacek's commission is in many ways the counterpart to those received by Ravel, Prokofiev, Richard Strauss and Korngold by the similarly disabled pianist Paul Wittgenstein.
The four-movement piece is written for the unusual combination of piano left-hand and a wind ensemble comprising a flute, two trumpets, three trombones and tenor tuba . The music is as capricious as its name suggests and requires as much virtuosity from seven wind players as the soloist. One could hardly have a more persuasive exponent of this quirky piece – described by the composer as “nothing but pranks and puns” – than Jean-Efflam Bavouzet who is expertly accompanied on this disc by seven soloists from the orchestra each of whom is rightly credited by name.
The Orchestral Suite from Janacek's opera 'The Cunning Little Vixen' is most often performed in the arrangement made by the Czech conductor Vaclav Talich (1883-1961) , though an earlier Suite made by Frantisek Jilek is occasionally heard – as on Jonathan Nott's slightly underwhelming
Janacek programme on the Tudor label Janacek: Sinfonietta, Taras Bulba - Nott .Talich's Suite is in essence an orchestral transcription of the opera's first Act, but was re-orchestrated in a way that romanticised and blunted the impact of Janacek's unique sound. Here, however, we have Talich's Suite in a version made by Sir Charles Mackerras a couple of years before his death in 2010. Mackerras restored Janacek's original orchestration and slightly expanded the Suite's second movement to make what surely must become a definitive arrangement. As in the other two works, the Bergen PO play this colourful music with a winning style and flare.
The 5.0 recording made in the Grieghallen, Bergen in March 2014 is of the usual high standard expected from Chandos. In all three works we are given a marvellously coherent sound picture that is full of detail yet retains the warm ambience of this venue.
Authoritative liner notes by the Janacek expert John Tyrell put the seal on this most recommendable issue.
Copyright © 2014 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net