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JANÁCEK: Orchestral Suites – Prague Radio Sym. Orch. / Tomas Netopil – Supraphon

JANÁCEK: Orchestral Suites – Prague Radio Sym. Orch. / Tomas Netopil – Supraphon SU4194-2, 52:00 (10/14/16) [Distr. by Naxos] ***:

Janácek’s opera melodies reborn as orchestral suites.

We know the music of Janácek best perhaps for his Sinfonietta. But the talented Czech composer was most often writing operas, and in truth, he didn’t leave us a great deal of straight orchestral music.

This album from Supraphon and imported by Naxos remedies that, by offering three orchestral suites that were assembled from music the composer wrote for his large scale operas. The suites are from Jenufa, Kata Kabanova and Fate.

Jenufa was the first opera to be set to a prose text. The globally celebrated piece reflected the sorrow Janácek felt after the death of his two beloved children and gave rise to a deep personal crisis. Katya Kabanova is one of the greatest Janácek works and one of the most beautiful lyric operas of the twentieth century and beyond. Fate was written in 1905, and wasn’t staged until 30 years after Janácek’s death. The adaptation heard here is by Frantisek Jilek, a fine Czech composer in his own right. Jenufa was adapted by Manfred Honeck, while Kata Kabanova was brought to life by Jaroslav Smolka.

The performances are energetic, and the recording is excellent, offering a solid orchestral image in stereo. The playing by the Prague Symphony, conducted by Tomas Netopil is assured, and the dynamics are strong.

Certainly Janácek aficionados will delight in this music, but it deserves a wider audience. Anyone familiar with the Sinfonietta will like these adaptations of these operas into short orchestral suites. Highly recommended!

—Mel Martin

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