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Charles Mackerras.

Life with Czech Music

(Janacek, Martinu)

The Czech Philharmonic, the Symphony Orchestra of the Czechoslovak Radio, Sir Charles Mackerras conductor.

Production: Matous Vlcinsky.

Text: Cz., Eng., Ger., Fr. Recorded: live and in the studio in the years 1982--2009, Rudolfinum, Prague. Released: 2010. TT: 52:25, 52:42, 69:54, 78:00. DDD.

Supraphon SU 4042-2.

The second of the pair of albums that our oldest recording firm Supraphon published promptly at the end of last year to honour the memory of Sir Charles Mackerras is devoted to two composers whose work this leading international composer and former private pupil of Vaclav Talich promoted throughout his life -Janacek and Martinu. He particularly admired Janacek and considered getting to know his work to be one of his supreme tasks in life. Not that his other activities can be neglected.

Relatively recent examples, horn the period shortly before his death, include outstanding recordings of selected Mo/art symphonies with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. These were entirely in the spirit of contemporary trends and won irternational awards! The number of Mackerras's recordings for leading international labels is amazing and it would be very difficult to compile a completely exhaustive catalogue of them. Although he often came to this country, he appeared relatively very late in the Supraphon studios--not until 1 981 and then not with Janacek but with Bohuslav Marlinu. in the first ever recording of the--Greek Passion. This present album does not include Mackerras's opera sets and so to represent Martinu's music it contains recordings of two of his famous orchestral work that Mackerras made a year after the Greek Passion with the then Symphony Orchestra of the Czechoslovak Radio. If we compare these recordings of the Double Concerto and Frescos of Piano della Francesco with the brilliant philharmonic recordings of Karel Sejna and Karel Ancerl from the end of the 1950s, we cannot miss the fact that Mackerras approached these scores with more emotional restraint and with the emphasis on their lyrical potential. The performance of the Radio Symphony Orchestra is admirable. The other Martinu score was recorded with philharmonic ensembles (The Prague Philharmonic Choir was affiliated with the Czech Philharmonic at the time). This is the Field Mans--and on this album we can admire once again the perfectly refined sound and the superb performance of the baritone. Vaclav Zitek. The last period of Mackerras's career is represented by the dynamically and technically interesting recording of the suite from the opera Julietta (prepared years before by Zbynek Vostrak). made in the studio in 2009.

Just as in the first album devoted to Smetana and Dvorak, it is the second name that dominates the album, in this case Janacek. In 1984, when Mackerras made his first Czech Janacek recording with the Czech Philharmonic--The Glagolitic Mass, he already had a distinguished Janacek discography behind him elsewhere--first and foremost the complete recordings of five selected operas with the Vienna Philharmonic and soloists (mostly Czech) for Decca, but also a series of orchestral and chamber works.

The most recent recordings on this album are for the most part live recordings from concerts with the Czech Philharmonic. Listening to the Vienna Taras Bulba or Sinfonieta, which are refined and perfect in terms of sound, I felt they lacked the vigorous Janacekian drive, and a more convincing stress on his distinctive musical language. This is something that here the Czech Philharmonic masters perfectly! Its combination with Mackerras yielded it a practically ideal result, which like the recordings of Ancerl can be a model in future. Although Sir Charles never forgot to emphasise the importance of Vaclav Talich in his life, he could be very critical of his beloved teacher, and Specifically of Talich's well-known and alas rather unfortunate retouches. Mackerras cleansed the famous "Talich" Suite from The Cunning Little Vixen of these retouches and constructed the score precicsely according to the original. The result is fascinating and in retrospective entirely proves Janacek right. Thanks to Sir Charles's Janacek scholarship the album is also very inceresting from the dramaturgical point of view. It includes works rarely performed or even unknown, such as the suite Schluck und Jau and the original overture to the opera of Jenufa--Jealousy. The editors have also included orchestral parts from Mackerras's complete recordings of the operas Sarka and Katya Kabanova (including the cut sections that Sir Charles was the first to restore in these projects). The well-chosen culmination of the whole album is the inserted DVD of Mackerras's concerts and the last interview that Sir Charles gave - in his London flat with the author of the text in the booklet Petr Veber. Supraphon deserves praise for this two-part compilation. It is a project with an international impact for at least two reasons: on the one hand it presents Mackerras's art in its remarkable breadth and versatility, and on the other it contributes to the dignified and effective promotion of the music of the founding four representatives of Czech national music.
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Title Annotation:Life with Czech Music
Author:Vitek, Bohuslav
Publication:Czech Music
Article Type:Sound recording review
Date:Jan 1, 2011
Words:825
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