More Sensational Janácek from Wit

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Everything about this disc is fabulous: the performances, the coupling, and the sonics. Antoni Wit’s Taras Bulba sounds like no other. It’s full of details that you won’t have heard before, particularly in the layering of textures and shades of woodwind color. This is particularly obvious in the second movement, “The Death of Ostap”, but these personal touches never get in the way of an idiomatic, indeed visceral response to the music’s high drama. Wit builds the tension in the first movement’s successive episodes as well as anyone ever has, and releases it in a truly menacing battle sequence, with vicious contributions from the low brass. In the finale the Naxos engineers balance the organ and orchestra uncannily in the concluding apotheosis, which Wit conducts with a wholly individual combination of grandeur and serenity. It’s just plain wonderful.

Wit’s first Janácek disc contained the Glagolitic Mass and the Sinfonietta, and finding appropriate couplings for the composer’s scant orchestral output is never easy. There are the two other symphonic poems (The Ballad of Blaník and The Fiddler’s Child), some assorted overtures, the Schluck und Jau incidental music, the early works for string orchestra, and very little else. Wit’s choice of the two dance suites turns out to be an inspired decision, since they offer music that marries very well with Taras Bulba. The Lachian Dances are somewhat well known from recordings, though still a rarity in concert, but the Moravian Dances of 1891, a five-movement suite lasting about nine minutes, remains the preserve of Janácek specialists. They are delightful, and I offer a sample of No. 2 (“Kalamajka”). For the record, Wit omits the optional organ part in the Lachian Dances (the score refers to it as “inobligato”), a smart idea as the orchestration is already somewhat thick. Strongest recommendation.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Taras Bulba: Ancerl (Supraphon)

LEOS JANÁCEK: Taras Bulba; Lachian Dances; Moravian Dances

Share This Review: