LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Janáček
WORKS: Six Moravian Choruses (after Dvorák); Nursery Rhymes; The Wild Duck; The Wolf’s Trail; Elegy on the Death of My Daughter Olga; Our Evenings; Ave Maria; Our Father
PERFORMER: Thomas Walker (tenor), Philip Mayers (piano); Radio Blazers Ensemble; Cappella Amsterdam/Daniel Reuss
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902097
It would be an exaggeration to say that choral composition was as important for Janácek as writing opera. Nevertheless, his music for choruses of various kinds comprise a huge part of his output and link him directly to the cantor tradition that was crucial in underpinning the Czech national revival. The Six Moravian Choruses, based on folk verse, are arrangements of duets by Janácek’s friend Dvorák. The originals do not suffer at all in the transfer, even if the chorus cannot quite capture the flexibility of the duet version.
The remaining choruses range widely across Janáˇcek’s career. The Wild Duck from 1885 has an air of bitter-sweet pathos; composed over 30 years later, on the verge of his rich late maturity, The Wolf’s Trail has a distinctly operatic mode of delivery. The most substantial chorus is the fiercely patriotic Our Father.
Cappella Amsterdam produces a superb choral sound: firm in ensemble and suitably heroic in
the higher tenor lines. It clearly identifies closely with this repertoire and captures the off-beat humour of the 1926 version of Nursery Rhymes, with its strange ensemble accompaniment. Czech pronunciation is good and the diction mostly clear. I could have done with a more forward recorded sound for the choir in the accompanied works, but this is an attractive recording, and beautifully performed.