“Issued to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth, this two-disc set of orchestral works may be the last Janácek recording from our greatest advocate of his work, Sir Charles Mackerras.
Where his pioneering Pro Arte recording of the Sinfonietta has an earthy quality and Decca's Vienna version is ripe and resonant, the new one is generally lighter and more flexible. The live performance brings dividends in its flow and the build-up of excitement, thrillingly caught when the fanfare theme returns to cap the finale.
Where most versions of the Cunning LittleVixen Suite use Václav Talich's reorchestration, Mackerras has gone back to the original. As he says, the orchestral writing may seem unusual, but it certainly isn't amateurish, where Talich's version, for all its beauty, 'rather emasculates the acid sounds produced for the insects'. but it certainly isn't amateurish, where Talich's version, for all its beauty, 'rather emasculates the acid sounds produced for the insects'.
Mackerras includes two tiny interludes for Kát'a Kabanová which he discovered in Prague, written when the German Theatre needed more time for scene changes. Rightly, he regards them as little jewels, well worth preserving.
The rarity is the incidental music for Gerhardt Hauptmann's play, Schluck und Jau, which Janácek was writing at the time of his death. The first of the two completed movements brings intriguing echoes of the fanfares in the Sinfonietta and the second in 5/8 time is equally original in its instrumentation, with deep trombones and stratospheric violins.
The helpful acoustic of the Rudolfinum gives a mellow quality to the refined playing of the Czech Philharmonic, with ample space round the sound, without underplaying the contrasts of wind and strings which are so typical of the composer.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010