Janacek: Nursery Rhymes; Songs of Hradcany; Our Father; Ave Maria; Elegy on the Death of My Daughter

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COMPOSERS: Janacek
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Nursery Rhymes; Songs of Hradcany; Our Father; Ave Maria; Elegy on the Death of My Daughter
PERFORMER: New London Chamber Choir, Critical Band/James Wood
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66893

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There is a surprising amount of Janácek that is unknown and unrecorded. This second issue of such works from Supraphon offers, apart from some delightful folk-song arrangements, the world premiere recording of the early ballet Rákos Rákoczy. Based on folk music from Valassko, the idiom often approaches that of Janácek’s friend Dvorák. Nevertheless his personality emerges in the more angular lines and insistent accompaniments. The effect is invariably charming and it is little wonder that the premiere in Prague was one of the great successes of Janácek’s early career. Svárovsky´’s performances are a little rough-hewn at times, but their engaging swing would win over the most exacting listener. The New London Chamber Choir’s collection of choruses, including the captivating Songs of Hradcany, has much to recommend it, not least for its rarity value. This is tricky repertoire, but James Wood and the group have the measure of much of it; aided by some sparkling instrumental accompaniment, the hilarious Nursery Rhymes come off particularly well. The diction is clear and, from the women especially, unusually idiomatic. Not all the solo voices are quite robust enough for Janácek’s more demanding lines, but the choir itself is unfailingly fresh and accurate.

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Jan Smaczny