Janacek: The Excursions of Mr Broueck Suite for orchestra (arr. Smolka & Zahradka); The Eternal Gospel; The Fiddler’s Child; The Ballad of Blaník

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COMPOSERS: Janacek
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Janácek: The Excursions of Mr Broucek
WORKS: The Excursions of Mr Broueck Suite for orchestra (arr. Smolka & Zahradka); The Eternal Gospel; The Fiddler’s Child; The Ballad of Blaník
PERFORMER: Gweneth-Ann Jeffers (soprano), Adrian Thompson (tenor); Edinburgh Festival Chorus; BBC Scottish SO/Ilan Volkov
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 6751
Janácek’s ‘legend’ The Eternal Gospel is a seemingly odd undertaking for its agnostic composer, a setting of a poem by Jaroslav Vrchlick´y based on the apocalyptic vision of the mediaeval mystic Joachim of Flore; but its prophecy of a universal kingdom of love inspired him to music of surging lyricism. As Joachim, Adrian Thompson is suitably ardent and Slavic; as the Angel, Gweneth-Ann Jeffers with her slow vibrato is almost too Slavic. Soloists and chorus sing confidently in what’s obviously carefully coached Czech. Elizabeth Layton contributes silvery violin solos, and under its young Chief Conductor Ilan Volkov the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is idiomatic and incisive.

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The cantata is complemented by orchestral music from the same decade, the 1910s, when Janá?ek’s extraordinary late-flowering genius was approaching its height: the genial Ballad of Blaník, suggested by another Vrchlick´y poem; the much grimmer Fiddler’s Child, loosely based on a poem by Svatopluk ?ech; and a plum pudding of a suite (Jaroslav Smolka’s standard version adapted by Jií Zahrádka) from the opera The Excursions of Mr Brou?ek, after stories by ?ech. The performances are again excellent, and the acoustic of Caird Hall, Dundee, while slightly cloudy for the cantata, adds a golden glow to the orchestral sound. Warmly recommended. Anthony Burton