Janacek: Sinfonietta

Album cover art
Catalog: SU3888
Format: CD

This reissue of a 1992 Supraphon recording brings together Janácek's most popular work, Sinfonietta, with three of his more obscure orchestral pieces: the Violin Concerto, the symphonic poem Danube, and incidental music to the Gerhard Hauptmann play Schluck und Jau. Brno was the composer's home for most of his professional life, and the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra under Frantisek Jílek plays with a deep-rooted familiarity with his music and with high energy. The orchestra brings out Sinfonietta's raw power, quirkiness, and exuberant happiness. The Danube is more a set of sketches than a finished piece, so it's not surprising that it feels fragmentary and underdeveloped. It does have one unforgettably odd moment though; in its third movement, a soprano appears and sings a brief coloratura vocalise over a chugging, folk-like accompaniment that seems to exist in an entirely different musical universe from anything that comes before or after. The single-movement Violin Concerto is altogether more successful, brilliantly and delicately orchestrated, with gratifyingly lyrical lines for the soloist. The incidental music for Schluck und Jau has the same kind of quirky charm as Sinfonietta (with which it shares some motivic material), and deserves to be better known.

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