These works span the years either side of World War I, a period of huge importance, both for the Czech nation and for Leo Janáček. This was a period of rebirth after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Janáček's music was considered as the very heart of this new beginning.
"The Eternal Gospel", a "Legend for Soprano, Tenor, Chorus and Orchestra" was composed in 1913 to a text by Jaroslav Vrchlicky. The title is borrowed from the Book of Revelation and although Janáček's celebrated agnosticism might have led him to view the message as overtly religious, he still found a way on how to express the need for reconciliation that the world of his time badly needed.
'Legend' was premièred late in 1917 whilst 'The Ballad of Blanik' dates from a couple of years later and can be labelled as a 'miniature orchestral epic' based on traditional folk material and depicting the transformation of swords into ploughshares amidst a backdrop of pastoral serenity.
'The Fiddler's Child' is a ballad for violin and orchestra also composed in 1913. This piece is loosely based on a gruesome story by Svatopluk Cech. Set in a village, the tale describes how a destitute fiddler dies after entrusting his sick child and fiddle to the care of an old woman. At midnight, the dead fiddler appears near the cradle and lures the child with his music to a better life.
The two 'Excursions of Mr. Broucek' operas composed between 1908 and 1917 deal with traditional tales of escapism dating from the Middle Ages. Dedicated to Tomas Masaryk, the country's president in the years following its split from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the operas contain music of unbounded vivacity and optimism. The Suite, prepared after the composer's death in 1928, is built on the considerable amount of purely orchestral music from the operas including some of Janáček's original drafts. These are scores of irrepressible beauty and imagination majestically performed by an orchestra and conductor that are totally devoted to the composer. Soloists and chorus are inspirational; their version of 'Gospel' is exciting, uplifting and truly memorable. A disc full of shimmering wonders which I cannot recommend too highly.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech