JANACEK: The Eternal Gospel; The Ballad of Blanik; The Fiddler’s Child; The Excursions of Mr. Broucek – suite for orchestra – Soloists/Edinburgh Festival Chorus/Elizabeth Layton, violin/ BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/ Ilvan Volkov – Hyperion Multichannel SACDA67517, 59:54 ****:

Bravo Hyperion for making available these rarely-heard works which flesh out a musical picture of one of the most individualistic Czech composers. The Eternal Gospel – for soprano, tenor, chorus and orchestra – is something of an oddity since Janacek was a confirmed agnostic. What he saw in the text by Joachim of Fiore was a visionary humanity rather than a biblical message. The work is full of beautiful melodic invention and ends proclaiming The Kingdom of Love.  The Ballad of Blanik was inspired by a poem relating to the awakening of Czech nationality after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Fiddler’s Child concerns a sickly child lured into the after-world by the ghost of a fiddler – both put in their dire straits by the major of the village.

The Suite from The Excursions of Mr. Broucek is selected from instrumental portions of two satirical Janacek operas revolving around the beer-stained moral  morass of the anti-hero Mr. Broucek. Some of the waltz music may remind one of R. Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier or Le Bourgoise Gentilhomme. One of the operas has Mr. Broucek going back to the 15th century, so there are intimations of early music in the score. A thoroughly fascinating instrumental suite in crystalline surround sonics.

– John Sunier