Janacek: Orchestral Works Vol 1 / Bavouzet, Gardner, Bergen Philharmonic

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First some housekeeping. This version of the suite from The Cunning LIttle Vixen is allegedly the “final” edition prepared by Charles Mackerras, consisting largely of the Talich score (that is, most of Act 1) but with Janácek’s original orchestration restored. According to Janácek scholar John Tyrrell, who wrote the otherwise comprehensive notes, Mackerras planned to conduct the “final” version of his edition, but his death intervened and it was only premiered at his memorial concert in 2010. What Tyrrell does not make clear is that Mackerras played and recorded his “almost final” version of the suite with the Czech Philharmonic for Supraphon. It differs in no major way from that offered here. So if you think that this recording features something new, it doesn’t, for the most part.

That said, this release represents an auspicious beginning to a new series of Janácek orchestral works. Gardner really is a good conductor. He plays the Sinfonietta swiftly and, happily, without an inappropriate effort to polish the music’s rough edges. There are a couple of quirky touches. The second movement starts quickly and then settles down to a marginally slower tempo for the rest. The fourth movement, too, after those two sudden eruptions towards the end, is taken very slowly for the last appearances of the main theme. I’m not sure that I like it because it sits oddly with the overall spunky tenor of the performance, but it’s not wrong, and it may improve on repetition.

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet plays a mean Capriccio, another swift performance, especially in the third movement, which the brass handle with aplomb. This is such a weird piece that you can do almost anything with it (or to it) and have it come out successfully, but Bavouzet’s fluidity in the spiky solo part, and the excellence of the ensemble generally, disarm criticism. Finally, Mackerras’ version of the Vixen suite is surely the way to play it, and Gardner doesn’t put a foot wrong. The SACD sonics are quite good–occasionally a touch low level, perhaps, but that’s easily remedied.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: CHSA 5142

  • UPC: 095115514221

  • Label: Chandos

  • Composer: Leoš Janáček

  • Conductor: Edward Gardner

  • Performer: Christopher Dudley, Gary Peterson, Hans Andreas Kjolberg, Ingela Oien, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Jon Behncke, Kjell Erik Husom, Oyvind Hage