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JANACEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 1 (arr. P. Breiner) - Jenufa / The Excursions of Mr Broucek


Naxos 8.570555

   The Classical Reviewer, April 2012
   Audiophile Audition, December 2011
   The Baltimore Sun, December 2009
   Chicago Tribune, December 2009
   ClassicalCDReview.com, December 2009
   Classical Lost and Found, September 2009
   American Record Guide, July 2009
   Fanfare, July 2009
   Sequenza21.com, May 2009
   MusicWeb International, May 2009
   Gramophone, May 2009
   Dvorák Society Newsletter, May 2009
   MusicWeb International, April 2009
   www.nj.com, March 2009
   New Jersey Star-Ledger, March 2009
   Allmusic.com, March 2009
   David's Review Corner, February 2009
   ClassicsToday.com, February 2009

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The Classical Reviewer, April 2012

JANÁČEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 1 (arr. P. Breiner) - Jenufa / The Excursions of Mr Broucek 8.570555
JANÁČEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 2 (arr. P. Breiner) - Kat’a Kabanova / The Makropulos Affair 8.570556
JANÁČEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 3 (arr. P. Breiner) - The Cunning Little Vixen / From the House of the Dead 8.570706

There is absolutely no indication that Janáček wanted anyone to make orchestral arrangements of his operas and, indeed, I think that he probably wouldn’t be very happy about it. However, Peter Breiner has done just this with suites from six of Janáček’s operas, Jenufa, The Excursions of Mr Broucek, Kata Kabanova, The Makropulos Affair, the Cunning Little Vixen and From the House of the Dead.

These suites, lasting from thirty one minutes to thirty nine minutes, can in no way give a true reflection of the complete operas but what they do give is the opportunity to listen to some very striking and beautiful music.

Some commentators have questioned the point of these arrangements and I can see why they do. To experience the full range of Janáček’s operatic works there can be no substitute for listening to the operas in full. However, the three CD’s issued by Naxos, beautifully played by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Peter Breiner himself, do give much pleasure. © 2012 The Classical Reviewer




Robert Moon
Audiophile Audition, December 2011

…these suites are pregnant with glorious melodies, theatrical flourishes and brilliant orchestrations. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra plays well and the recording is excellent. A delightful disc, especially if you’ve never encountered Janacek’s music. © 2011 Audiophile Audition Read complete review



Tim Smith
The Baltimore Sun, December 2009

VIVALDI, A.: 4 Seasons (The) / Mandolin Concerto, RV 425 / Lute Concerto, RV 93 (arr. for piano) (Biegel) 8.570031
JANACEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 1 (arr. P. Breiner) - Jenůfa / The Excursions of Mr Broucek 8.570555
JANACEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 2 (arr. P. Breiner) - Kat’a Kabanova / The Makropulos Affair 8.570556
STRAUSS, R.: Rosenkavalier (Der) Suite / Symphonic Fantasy on Die Frau ohne Schatten / Symphonic Fragment from Josephs Legende (Falletta) 8.572041

As I mentioned in my first post of gift suggestions (for those on your shopping list, or for yourself when all those gift cards come in), I ended up limiting myself to opera, orchestral and piano. Here are my picks from the last two categories:

PIANO

Two of the most enjoyable keyboard CDs I heard this year both feature pianist Jeffrey Biegel, and both are ever so slightly (and delectably) out of the mainstream.

Even if you’ve got a zillion recordings of the Mozart piano sonatas, you’re not likely to have any that include embellishments of the repeats. In the three-disc Volume 1 of his survey of the sonatas for the E1 Music label, Biegel argues that, given Mozart’s famed improvisational skills, there’s room for improve today when sections of a sonata movement get repeated. Doesn’t seem at all far-fetched to me. Then again, I’m in favor of embellishing repeated sections in Mozart arias, a practice that relatively few singers dare to try. And I think even the repeats in symphonies—not just by Mozart—could stand a little variety, Maybe not actual changes or additions to the notes, but at least variances in dynamics and emphasis. Ah, but I digress.

The modest amount of ornamentation and variation Biegel applies in the sonatas seems just right, adding a welcome dimension of spontaneity and intensified character. That’s not the only distinction. The pianist also demonstrates admirable technical fluency, considerable tonal shading and a great deal of stylish sensitivity to make this a first-rate exploration of Mozart’s ever-rewarding sonatas.

For even more of a left-field excursion, how about a piano transcription of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”? I’m so over-dosed on this music that I didn’t think any version of it would awaken my senses, but Biegel won me over with the first notes of his own keyboard version, contained on a Naxos release. Although Vivaldi’s seasonal-themed collection of descriptive violin concertos would not seem, at first glance, to translate easily to the piano, Biegel provides the color, nuance and virtuosity to make it work. He fills out the disc with Andrew Gentile’s classy arrangements of Vivaldi’s C major Mandolin Concerto and D major Lute Concerto. Again, the experience proves thoroughly winning.

ORCHESTRAL

Sure, you can find the usual symphonies and such among current recordings, but how about something a little different? I was very impressed with three releases, all on Naxos, devoted to orchestral suites from stage works by Strauss and Janáček.

The Strauss collection, with the Buffalo Philharmonic conducted by JoAnn Falletta (yes, Virginia, there is another very talented American female conductor besides Marin Alsop), contains one truly familiar item, the Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier,” which gets a sturdy workout. What makes the disc more appealing is the inclusion of a less-often encountered suite from another opera, “Die Frau ohne Schatten,” and a suite from the relatively obscure ballet “Josephs-Legende.” Falletta secures vibrant responses from the orchestra in both of these richly layered scores.

Even farther a field are the premiere recordings of orchestral suites fashioned by Peter Breiner out of the potent operas of Janáček. Breiner captures the flavor of the composer’s sound and dramatic instincts so well that it’s easy to imagine Janáček. penned the suites himself. At more than a half-hour each, there is a lot of action in these pieces, and the New Zealand Symphony digs deeply into to the material with the guidance of Breiner on the podium. The first release pairs “Jenůfa” with “The Excursion of Mr. Broucek.” The second contains suites from “Katya Kabanova” and “The Makropulos Affair.”

These three discs would be perfect for the opera-shy person on your shopping list. Not a note of vocal music, but a strong sense of each opera’s melodic and emotional power.

BONUS RECOMMENDATION

If you’re having a tough time deciding on a classical music gift, you can’t go wrong with a hefty collection—six CDs, 111 tracks, 111 artists—released by Deutsche Grammophon to celebrate its 111th anniversary. The selections are arranged alphabetically by performer, so it means that the repertoire is constantly varying—orchestral, vocal, solo instrumental, chamber. The one constant is quality, since the musicians include the likes of Argerich, Caruso, Furtwängler, Heifetz, Maazel, Michelangeli, Segovia, Rostropovich and Wunderlich. The set wouldn’t necessarily be for the classical music purist, who may well frown on miscellaneous excerpts, but it’s a handsome compendium of (and a possible introduction to) the art form and those who have served it nobly for more than a century.



John von Rhein
Chicago Tribune, December 2009

JANACEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 1 (arr. P. Breiner) - Jenufa / The Excursions of Mr Broucek 8.570555
JANACEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 2 (arr. P. Breiner) - Kat’a Kabanova / The Makropulos Affair 8.570556
JANACEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 3 (arr. P. Breiner) - The Cunning Little Vixen / From the House of the Dead 8.570706

Janacek: Orchestral suites from operas. New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Peter Breiner, conductor (Naxos, three separate CDs).: It’s good to find the Janacek operas finally getting their due in the theater and on recording. Too bad the Moravian composer’s purely orchestral output was so slim. Conductor and arranger Peter Breiner fills the void with his beautifully crafted symphonic suites based on music from “Jenufa,” “Katya Kabanova,” “The Cunning Little Vixen” and other masterpieces.



Steve Schwartz
ClassicalCDReview.com, December 2009

JANACEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 1 (arr. P. Breiner) - Jenufa / The Excursions of Mr Broucek 8.570555
JANACEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 2 (arr. P. Breiner) - Kat’a Kabanova / The Makropulos Affair 8.570556

…these CDs comprise an afternoon of agreeable listening. Breiner and his kiwis do very well. I’ve never really listened to the New Zealand Symphony before, mainly because their repertoire interested me to the exclusion of their performances. Now that they play something that interests me less, I can focus on them: a lovely string sound and capable of sustaining large spans of music. I can’t tell how much Breiner has contributed to this, but obviously the capability lies within the players. The sound is acceptable without crossing over into the super-spectacular.



Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, September 2009

JANÁČEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 1 (arr. P. Breiner) – Jenůfa / The Excursions of Mr Broucek 8.570555
AUDIOPHILE

JANÁČEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 2 (arr. P. Breiner) – Kat’a Kabanova / The Makropulos Affair 8.570556
AUDIOPHILE

JANÁČEK, L.: Operatic Orchestral Suites, Vol. 3 (arr. P. Breiner) – The Cunning Little Vixen / From the House of the Dead 8.570706
AUDIOPHILE

When it comes to operas, except for stand-alones like overtures, preludes, entr’actes and ballets, it seems that some composers find writing for the orchestra a rather perfunctory task done simply to support the soloists. That’s not the case with Czech composer Leos Janáček (1854–1928) whose orchestral accompaniments comment even further on the speech rhythms and folk-inflected motifs ever present in his vocal lines. Consequently his operas have motivated a number of modern day conductors and composers to extract orchestral suites from them.

Our conductor here, Slovak-born Peter Breiner (b. 1957), tries his hand at it in this series of three CDs containing suites drawn from Leos’ six major operas. Lasting between thirty to forty minutes each, Breiner successfully captures the composer’s unique sound world, and includes more material from the parent operas than most of the other suites currently available on disc. Consequently all Janáček enthusiasts will want these whether they have other versions or not—particularly at Naxos prices!

The third volume in the series [8.570706] begins with a suite from The Cunning Little Vixen (1924), which was inspired by a series of stories that appeared in a Brno newspaper back in 1920. For many this remains Janáček’s most endearing opera. While on the surface there’s a childlike simplicity about it, a fundamentally profound message asserting nature’s unending cycle of birth and death lies underneath. Maestro Breiner’s six-part suite comes across as such a convincing stand-alone symphonic work that it would be easy to believe the opera was a later elaboration of it. Highlights include an infectious “Blue Dragonfly” opening movement [track-1], a captivating Moravian folk-filled “Wedding” scene [track-4] and a “Vixen is Running” finale [tack-6] utilizing some of Janáček’s most powerful music.

The companion suite, From the House of the Dead (1927–28), symphonically encapsulates Leos’ most succinct and arguably finest opera. It’s based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s (1821–1881) fictionalized account (1862) of the time he spent in a Siberian prison camp. Due to the very nature of the opera, Breiner’s six part suite doesn’t have the melodic sweep of what we just heard. Instead there are repeated fragmentary motifs that in some ways anticipate minimalism, but not to an extent where “Glassophobes” would find it unlistenable.

The opening overture [track-7] with its insistent driving introductory theme is hypnotic. The “Holiday is Coming” section [track-9] is a fascinating juxtaposition of swaying liturgical passages replete with chimes, and boisterous bass drum-spiked dance episodes. There’s what could even pass as a tiny tone poem in the form of “The Play and the Pantomime” movement [track-11], which harkens back to the Sinfonietta (1926) and much earlier Taras Bulba (1915–18) . A blazing finale entitled “Jesus, God’s Prophet” [track-12] ends the suite enigmatically with optimistic brass fanfares squelched by pessimistic thunderations from the orchestra.

The first selection on volume two [8.570556] is a five-movement suite from Kát’a Kabanová (1921), which is based on Russian dramatist Aleksandr Ostrovsky’s (1823–1886) The Storm (1859). Apparently it was Janáček’s love for Puccini’s (1858–1924) Madama Butterfly (1904) that was a key motivating factor in his writing this heart-rending opera about an ill-fated provincial belle.

At the very beginning of the overture [track-1] eight strokes on the timpani serve as a fate motif (FM), anticipating the tragic tale to come. The “Intermezzo and Songs” section [track-4] contains some lovely melodies undoubtedly derived from Moravian folk sources, and concludes rapturously with some of the composer’s most amorous music. The finale, “The Storm is coming” [track-5], opens dramatically with FM repeated over and over again, and takes on the aspect of a miniature tone poem. There’s a subdued romantic central section, but FM returns and the tension builds, ending with Kát’a’s demise as she jumps into the Volga river.

This disc is filled out with a six-movement suite from The Makropulos Affair. Completed in 1925, the opera is based on a 1922 play by Karel Capek (1890–1938). It’s about a young woman named Elina Makropulos (E.M.) who back in the late 1500s drank a life-extending potion devised by her physician father. It’s kept her young and beautiful for three hundred and thirty seven years, which takes us up to the time of the opera. During her almost vampire-like existence she’s had a variety of names as well as many lovers, and she’s now an opera singer called Emilia Marty (E.M. again).

The opening two sections of the suite, “Death was touching me” [track-6] and “The Gregor Prus Case” [track-7], are notable for a couple of strange glissandi and more of those explosive timpani strokes Leos loved so well. The second section is drawn from the opera’s overture, which anticipates the Sinfonietta, and contains one of the composer’s most engaging melodies [track-7, beginning at 01:35]. The fourth movement, “I am actually an idiot” [track-9], is spiced with some Tzigane touches recalling a time when Elina was known as the gypsy Eugenia Montez (E.M. once again). The stunning finale, “So?” [track-11], where Elina ultimately triumphs over her desire for eternal life by refusing to take any more of the potion, is a real tearjerker.

It seems appropriate the first volume [8.570555] should begin with a suite from Jenůfa (1904), which put Janáček on the operatic map. The folk music of Moravia is some of the most gorgeous in the western world, and its melodies and speech rhythms are the lifeblood of this stage work. It’s based on a tragic drama about peasant life by Czech playwright Gabriela Preissová (1862–1946).

The opening, “Night is already falling” [track-1], is anxiety-ridden and spooked by ossified notes repeated on the xylophone. Two folk highpoints include a wild dance that breaks out in the second part “All are getting married—Every couple must get over its problems” [track-2], and the melody to a fabulous wedding song (“Ej, mamko, mamko” or “Oh mother, mother”) that appears in the fifth movement, “May God grant you a good day” [track-5]. The last part, “They’ve all left—Now you leave too!” [track-6], builds via a spellbinding undulant theme to an overwhelming climax guaranteed to melt the iciest of hearts.

The Excursions of Mr Brouček (1908–17) is the subject of the concluding five-part suite on this disc. The opera is based on a couple of satirical novels by Czech writer Svatopluk Cech (1846–1908). In two parts, the central character is a bumbling besotted landlord named Matej Broucek who takes a trip to the moon in the first half of this farce, and is then transported back to the fifteenth century in the second. Most of the suite is drawn from his lunar excursion, with only the concluding movement derived from his visit to Renaissance times.

With an emphasis on extended melodies, the music here is less folkie than in Leos’ other operas. The two opening movements, “I, Matej Broucek” [track-7] and “There is the Moon” [track-8], open the suite in lyrical fashion with a minimum of those quirky rhythmic passages so typical of the composer. The third section, “Waltzes and Other Dances” [track-9], is about as folkish as the suite ever gets, but the predominance of waltz episodes will bring Richard Strauss’ (1864–1949) Der Rosenkavalier (1911) to mind. The finale, “Those who are the warriors of God” [track-11], sounds more like the composer, and contains a bit of Czech nationalism in the form of a reference to the same Hussite hymn Smetana (1824–1884) quotes in Ma Vlast (1872–79) [track-11, beginning at 01:23]. It ends the suite triumphantly, and brings this CD to a memorable conclusion.

With the arranger conducting, all of these performances by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra are totally committed and even passionate where appropriate. In the process the musicians from down under certainly prove themselves a class act! Some may find a couple of Maestro Breiner’s tempos a little slow, but in the context of these suites they seem to work.

All three albums were recorded between May and August of 2007 at Wellington Town Hall and produced by the same personnel, so it’s not surprising that the sonics are uniformly demonstration quality. The soundstage is perfectly proportioned with enough intimacy for instrumental detail, but at the same time sufficient space for this intricate music to breath.

The orchestral timbre remains natural over the extended frequency and dynamic range engendered by Janáček’s brilliant instrumentation. Tinkling bells, triangles and tambourines will tweak your tweeters. While at the other end of the audio spectrum, timpani and bass drum profundities will plumb the depths of your woofers. Audiophiles take note!



Carl Bauman
American Record Guide, July 2009

Neither one of these suites will be familiar; both were arranged by the conductor, Peter Breiner…When I began listening I wasn’t certain how well Breiner would do. I needn’t have worried; both suites are wonderfully arranged and the New Zealand Symphony plays them very well. The recording is rich and full-blooded, and the notes are satisfactory. Score another triumph for Naxos.



James H. North
Fanfare, July 2009

For one who loves Janácek operas above (almost) all others, this is pure pap. The composer’s carefully chosen words and closely matched music fit perfectly. The music can stand on its own…



Phil Muse
Sequenza21.com, May 2009

Peter Breiner, music director of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, has done us a service in arranging and recording a series of suites from the operas of Czech composer Leoš Janáček (1854–1928), with the object of making some of the composer’s most vibrant music accessible to a wider public outside the opera house. To judge from what I hear in these suites from Jenůfa and The Excursions of Mr. Brouček, Breiner has succeeded admirably as both arranger and conductor. (Even as we speak, a second volume of Janáček suites, consisting of Kátya Kabanová and The Makropoulos Affair, has been released by Naxos. [8.570556])

…Symphonic players must really love Janáček. No matter what your instrument, he doesn’t keep you sawing away in the background on some boring accompaniment for long; sooner or later, you will have your moment in the sun. In particular, his distinctive writing for the brass is highly imaginative and is often used for expressive purposes. In Jenůfa, a dark, troubled tale of passion and jealousy in which, among other things, the heroine’s love child is drowned in a mill race by her envious stepmother, the sounds of the brass are often blurred as in a miasma, psychologically reflecting the internal turmoil of the characters. The mill itself is characterized by the ceaseless tapping of the xylophone, to be replaced later by the smoother, undulating sound of the harp, when the sinister crisis has been resolved and Jenůfa has at last found happiness.

The Excursions of Mr. Brouček is an opera in a different mood, based on a fictional Czech hero who rivals Baron Münchhausen as a shameless liar. As befits a drunken hero who lives in a wine vat and is at one point sentenced to die in a beer barrel, the music associated with Brouček is highly colored. In the opening movement of the suite, our hero’s name, Matěj Brouček, is blared out for us by the horns and trumpets. When one of his imaginary “excursions” takes him to the moon, we hear mystic strings and harp glissandi. In the last excursion, when Brouček finds himself in 15th century Prague, the savior of his country against the onslaughts of the Austrian Emperor, the scoring becomes more robust as Janáček invokes the same Hussite chorale that Smetana had previously used in Ma Vlast (My Homeland), and for much the same nationalistic purpose.



Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, May 2009

Peter Breiner has taken some highlights from these operas and arranged them to work as orchestral concert suites, somewhat like Stokowski’s treatment of Wagner. It’s a laudable endeavour and the result is pleasing and never less than interesting…In Jenůfa Breiner sticks broadly to Janáček’s orchestral textures with the occasional embellishment, such as a solo trumpet to sing Jenůfa’s lines or a cor anglais for the Kostelnička’s…I enjoyed Brouček more as a distinct work, perhaps because I don’t know the opera. It opens with a jovial depiction of Prague and of Brouček himself, before much more delicate orchestration underlines the change of location to the Moon in the second movement. The atmosphere of the spectral strings and glockenspiel (or is it a celesta?) contrasts with the lovely romantic swell which occurs at 5:45, and I was reminded a little of middle-period Mahler. The third movement dances are all good fun, by turns lithe and swaggering, though the patriotic celebrations of the finale feel pedestrian rather than triumphal.



David Fanning
Gramophone, May 2009

…here is a splendid disc. The extracts, expertly chosen by Peter Breiner, stand up reasonably well in the absence of the voices. They are nicely varied in character and pace, and are conducted by him with passion and sympathetic understanding. Recording and playing are respectable, the accompanying essay is helpful, and for a minimal outlay the music delivers treasure upon treasure.



Graham Melville-Mason
Dvorák Society Newsletter, May 2009

We are used to the orchestral suites from Janáček’s operas arranged by Václav Talich and František Jílek, as well as those done by Václav Smetáček, Sir Charles Mackerras and Jaroslav Smolka. Now the Slovak composer, conductor and pianist, Peter Breiner has joined this company. A composition pupil of Alexander Moyzes, he made his mark at home with his Baroque arrangements of Beatles pieces and it was in that capacity that some of us first encountered him in Bratislava. In 1992 he moved to Toronto and has been based there ever since. In turning his hand to making his own suites from Janáček operas, he has made his own selection and structure which is very convincing and has a certain musical logic to the resulting overall composition. If you know the opera scores, you will have no difficulty in identifying your place. Breiner obtains some good and idiomatic playing from the New Zealand orchestra and I look forward to his creating as effective suites from other of Janáček’s operas.



Dominy Clements
MusicWeb International, April 2009

Janáček’s operas have become recognised as some of the finest of the 20th century, and his reputation is more often than not enhanced by each new production that hits the boards or the recorded catalogue…It may partially be due to differences in modern recording, ideal concert hall conditions rather than the ‘Opera house’ situation, or at the very least a recording set up which no longer has to take a variety of singers into consideration, but these suites sound more sumptuous and grand than anything I’ve heard from these pieces in the past. Janáček’s own orchestral palette in both of these operas is rich and full of fascinating colour and variety, and Breiner takes all of this on board…I like the creative and convincing way Breiner has brought sometimes disparate material together to create new movements. These arrangements and performances do however paint a rather different picture of Janáček’s operas than the one you might hope to hear in an opera production…these are fine performances and stunningly dynamic recordings, with some fine low drum rumbles and plenty of sparkle and colour in the spectrum. If you know and love the operas already this disc probably won’t further enhance your appreciation, but if you want some refreshingly new orchestral music and an alternative view on Janáček then this is a very strong contender indeed.



www.nj.com, March 2009

…the first in a series devoted to orchestral suites from the Czech’s stage works—gives even opera-resistant listeners the chance to experience the piquant melody and shimmering texture that make Janáček a one-of-a-kind composer…“Jenůfa” feels more like a bittersweet fairy tale in conductor Peter Breiner’s orchestral suite—the music having that swirling, “magical” Janáček sound. “The Excursions of Mr. Broucek” is a fantastical satire, and its music evokes a surprising, luminous and, again, bittersweet world. With the New Zealand orchestra punching way above its weight, this is a disc to set on repeat.



New Jersey Star-Ledger, March 2009

The operas of Leos Janacek (1854-1928) are heard more frequently in the theater than ever, but he didn't write many standalone orchestral pieces. This invaluable disc—the first in a series devoted to orchestral suites from the Czech's stage works—gives even opera-resistant listeners the chance to experience the piquant melody and shimmering texture that make Janacek a one-of-a-kind composer. Although an unsettling drama on stage, "Jenufa" feels more like a bittersweet fairy tale in conductor Peter Breiner's orchestral suite —the music having that swirling, "magical" Janacek sound. "The Excursions of Mr. Broucek" is a fantastical satire, and its music evokes a surprising, luminous and, again, bittersweet world. With the New Zealand orchestra punching way above its weight, this is a disc to set on repeat.



James Leonard
Allmusic.com, March 2009

Composer, conductor, and arranger Peter Breiner has done an able job of adapting sections of Janáček’s operas Jenůfa and The Excursions of Mr. Brouček into multi-movement suites for orchestra by leaving the orchestral parts intact, subsuming the vocal lines into the orchestra, and appending concert endings. Even if Breiner adds nothing to Janáček’s glorious music, he does make it possible for the music to be played out of context of the operas. As a conductor, Breiner does an enthusiastic job of bringing his arrangements to life and one can catch the sense of excitement and pathos that informs Janáček’s scores.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2009

Though most of Leoš Janáček’s operas are now firmly embedded in the repertoire of the world’s opera houses, anything that brings them further exposure to those unfamiliar with such great masterpieces is most welcome. Towards the end of his life they had gained acceptance in Prague, but he had lived much of his compositional career unable to hear the highly distinctive sounds he was creating and which were his unique possession. Having spent a lifetime travelling wherever his operas were performed, I have to be regarded as biased, but he is surely among the most remarkable composers of the 20th century. In the last 30 years have performances of his works have become more  common, the exception being the comic opera, The Excursions of Mr. Brouček, Janáček’s use of words to create music being lost when translated, yet without it the audience fails to understand the comedy. Jeůufa, with its story of the ignominy that a child born out of wedlock brings in a close-knit village is both dramatic and deeply moving, and remains his masterpiece. In making his suite Peter Breiner switches backwards and forwards to create an interesting concert hall experience and uses orchestral passages to avoids the need to recast the vocal line on instruments. He had a much more difficult job with Brouček as the vocal line and story is all important and the opera depends on the summation of those parts. The New Zealand Symphony—New Zealand Opera having recently staged Jenůfa—plays with impact, brilliance and a nice feel for the Janáček sound, Peter Breiner’s conducting is generally in line with the tempos you would hear in the opera house. High impact, highly detailed sound.



David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, February 2009

Janáček fans will be salivating at the prospect of a new series of suites from his operas, of which this release is billed as Volume 1…Janáček’s operatic music is so fascinatingly mobile, visceral in its emotional impact, and direct in expression that even when it consists of little more than ostinatos and tune-fragments it’s interesting to listen to on its own, and thus far we have had no suite from his first great opera, Jenůfa…[The Excursions of Mr Brouček], as we already know from the existing arrangement, contains tons of tuneful, gorgeous, continuous music, and Breiner’s 40 minutes quite successfully captures most of the highlights.






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