The Cunning Little Vixen; Sinfonietta
Lucy Crowe, Gerald Finley, Sophia Burgos, Jan Martinik, Peter Hoare, Hanno Müller-Brachmann; London Symphony Chorus; LSO/Simon Rattle
LSO Live LSO0850 119:13 mins (2 discs)
Another knight follows the most famous Janáček conductor, Charles Mackerras, in notching up two recordings of an opera by the Czech master in different languages. Mackerras gave us Jenůfa twice, the second time in English, and now Rattle, by virtue of a live performance semi-staged in the Barbican by Peter Sellars, reverts to Czech after his Royal Opera English-language version with Thomas Allen as the Forester. Both are still a little outshined by Mackerras’s Vienna Philharmonic classic, though there are plenty of fresh insights: warm inner lines in the autumnal textures, a few speciality Rattle pianissimos. Lucy Crowe has just as much personality as Mackerras’s Lucia Popp, but a slightly cloudy upper register is at odds with the prevailing brightness. Gerald Finley is mellifluous but perhaps too civilised for the earthy Forester, though that’s good to hear in the great final scene where an ageing human recognises the value of the natural cycle. Peter Hoare is instantly recognisable in three roles; the children are excellent. Having missed the live performance, I’d love to see what Sellars made of it all.
If this Vixen is good, the Sinfonietta is outstanding – arguably the best on disc, though you need to experience the work in a concert hall with the nine trumpets blazing. They’re supremely sophisticated as well as clarion here; Rattle, being a sound man first and foremost, makes every odd instrumental combination tell and there’s a drive sometimes lacking in the Vixen. Presentation is neat perfection, with a full libretto in both English and Czech, stage directions included.