Janáček/Jonathan Nott

0 of 5 stars

Taras Bulba – Rhapsody for Orchestra
The Cunning Little Vixen [Suite arr. František Jílek]

Bamberger Symphoniker
Jonathan Nott

Recorded 25-28 October 2004 in Sinfonie an der Regnitz, Joseph-Keilberth-Saal, Bamberg

Reviewed by: Andrew Achenbach

Reviewed: May 2006
CD No: TUDOR 7135
[CD/SACD Hybrid]
Duration: 62 minutes

Jonathan Nott’s nearly-complete Schubert symphony cycle with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra for Tudor has proved a most stimulating enterprise. If this same partnership’s new Janáček triptych (released to celebrate the orchestra’s sixtieth anniversary in March 2006) serves up fewer in the way of durable rewards, it still has a decent amount going for it.

Nott masterminds a stylish, lucid and beautifully sprung account of the Sinfonietta, full of trim purpose and by no means devoid of thoughtful detail (how refreshing, for example, to hear the violas cutting though the texture at fig 7 or 3’14” in the finale) but in the last resort lacking just that last ounce of tangy familiarity and sense of occasion. I appreciate the polish and eager application on display (though, if I’m being picky, the Più mosso marking at 4 after fig 4 or 2’33” in the last movement brings with it just a momentary suggestion of fluster), but not everyone will deem the Bambergers’ comparatively soft-grained timbre advantageous, and in terms of sheer weight, snapping authenticity and incendiary fervour these (albeit likeable) newcomers are outgunned by the wondrous splendours of Ančerl and the Czech Philharmonic (Supraphon) or Kubelík and his Bavarian Radio band (DG and Orfeo). Nor does the rather close-set engineering help, truthfully balanced though it is: the chosen acoustic doesn’t quite possess the airy spaciousness and sense of far-flung perspective this music ideally needs.

It’s a similar tale in Taras Bulba which, although intelligent, articulate and obviously the product of meticulous preparation, never quite ignites and offers little challenge to that inspirational trio of Talich (Supraphon – just make sure you go for the earlier of the two transfers), Ančerl (EMI Great Conductors of the 20th Century) or Kubelík (DG).

Fortunately, tension-levels rise a notch or two for the suite from “The Cunning Little Vixen” compiled by the Novák pupil and Brno Opera stalwart František Jílek (1913-1993). This delectable 16-minute canvas predates Talich’s more familiar effort and is most deftly and affectionately attended to here, a worthy successor to Jílek’s own glowing Czech Philharmonic recording from 1983 (one of Supraphon’s very first CDs and well deserving resuscitation).

Overall, then, something of a mixed bag, but one that Janáček admirers will find well worth checking out for the Sinfonietta and Vixen suite alone.

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