Ancerl/Czech PO: Janacek Sinfonietta & Taras Bulba - Supraphon SUA ST 50380
Jacket: VG / Vinyl: EX / Czech pressing
This outstanding gatefold LP from Supraphon (SUA ST 50380, Czech pressing, blue/silver label, stereo) features conductor Karel Ancerl and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra’s brilliant accounts of Janacek’s Sinfonietta and Taras Bulba, recorded in the rich acoustics of the Rudolfinium Studio, Prague, during 9-11 January 1961.
Ancerl’s readings can withstand the most exalted comparisons, be it with Mackerras, Kosler, Neumann, et al. The Czech Philharmonic has this music in their blood and bones, and Ancerl galvanizes the orchestra to exalted heights – dazzling, and with sumptuous sound to match.
Wrote the wonderful author and critic David Hurwitz for ClassicsToday.com:
"Karel Ancerl's incomparable recording of Janácek's resplendently barbaric Sinfonietta remains not only the finest available version of the work, but also is the best recorded, particularly in this incredibly vivid new transfer. Although it was captured as long ago as 1961, no other version so effectively conveys the panoramic splendor of the trumpet-led opening across the stereo spectrum, no other offers such clarity in passages such as the finale's hair-raising wind writing, and no other balances the orchestra against the massed brass of the closing pages so naturally and cleanly. Technically it's quite an achievement, and Martinu's Parables sound equally fine--only The Frescoes of Piero della Francesca show their age in comparison, though the sound is still quite good.
"As to the performances--well, what is there to say? They are simply the last word in excitement, accuracy, passion, color, and expressive immediacy. The Sinfonietta erupts form the speakers like a primal force. What other performance propels the second-movement ostinatos so forcefully, or builds the third movement's central climax with such explosive energy? Who else observes the various tempo changes in the brief fourth movement so effectively, wringing every drop of variety from its many repetitions of its opening trumpet tune? And who else drives the finale to positively expressionistic extremes of tension, making the return of the opening fanfares a moment of apocalyptic grandeur? Much as I love this work, and enjoy other performances (including Kubelik, Neumann, Jilek, and Mackerras), this is one of those rare occasions where you really can point your finger to a single version and say, 'This is the best.'
Incidentally, the striking cover art reproduces Ota Janacek's “Studie 1962”. There are fine liner notes by Dr. Kamil Slapak, while the album design was executed by Osvald Klapper.