Janacek: Danube, Etc / Pesek, Valaskova, Husek, Slovak Po

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This excellent disc fills a very useful repertoire gap and makes a fine budget-priced recommendation for some unusual Janácek. Now we all know that the Slovak Philharmonic is not exactly a world-class orchestra, but Libor Pešek certainly is a world-class conductor, and he secures exciting and idiomatic playing in music for which those qualities count far more than does sheer polish. The symphonic poem Danube was discovered among Janácek's papers after his death in 1928, though he worked on it several years earlier before laying it aside. There is some question as to just how complete the surviving four movements make it, but it sounds completely characteristic with only the abrupt ending of its final movement suggesting that there might have been more to come. Idiosyncratically scored (no trumpets, three sets of timpani, and a looney soprano vocalizes in the third movement), it deserves more regular performance.

The same is true for the two charming sets of dances, one of which, the Suite Op. 3, takes music from the opera The Beginning of a Romance (and its third movement from the Lachian Dances). Best of all are the two movements designed as incidental music to the play Schluck und Jau. Heaven only knows what they represent, but here is 10 minutes of prime late Janácek in all of his quirky, vibrant, irresistible strangeness. And Pešek really does get first class playing from his orchestra here. Its tonal qualities may be a bit rough (aptly so, as noted above), but it's clear that these musicians know how to play this music. Clear recorded sound lets you hear all of the necessary details of scoring and color. It may be only 49 minutes or so of music, but Janácek is one of those composers who packs a lot of punch into small spaces, and at the Naxos price this interesting collection offers listeners good value.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8555245

  • UPC: 747313524525

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Leoš Janáček

  • Conductor: Libor Pesek

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Bratislava Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Performer: Jana Valàskovà, Zdenek Husek