CD Review

Orchestral music by Janácek


© Chris Green, September 2019


I can well remember some time in the 1950s sitting in a cinema in my home town in England enthralled by the sound of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Karel Ancerl. Their visits to England were frequent and, at that time, must have made a welcome cash injection to the wages of these orchestral players. What power and incisiveness they brought to their music, muted only by the poor acoustics of the venue. Later I would encounter them again when, as a University student, I would hear them in the more spacious setting of a great Victorian Town Hall in the North of England.

Well, that encounter has been renewed some 65 years later with the reissue of a recording of orchestral music comprising four orchestral operatic preludes by Janacek, his rhapsody for orchestra, Taras Bulba, and the icing on the cake, the late Sir Charles Mackerras conducting a "pickup" band in the same composer's Sinfonietta.

I remember the latter recording being issued with great praise in the national press in 1960. It had taken some organisation to collect all the brass players required for the session which, if I recall correctly, was made in the early hours of the morning. The brilliance of the brass emerges undimmed in this release heralding that a new champion for Janacek's music had been found in the young Mackerras.


Karle Ancerl conducts the rest of this programme in Supraphon recordings from the early 1960s, but what a feast there is to be had all at super-budget price in re-mastered recordings by Paul Arden-Taylor. As a guide, just listen to the way the strings and brass interact in the final movement of Taras Bulba. It is gripping and how I recall those days many years ago when as a youngster we heard this music. Alto ALC1380