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Martin Anderson
Fanfare, December 2001

"It would hardly be fair to give this CD anything less than a hearty welcome: They are good performances, even if not surpassing excellent, and anyone coming to the music for the first time (which Naxos's budget price makes more than likely) will get a fair impression of the power and range of Janacek's inspiration...I'm nonetheless happy to recommend this disc as a reliable introduction to the music itself. "

Richard Todd
Ottawa Citizen, June 2001

"Leos Janacek (1854-1928) may have been born in the middle of the 19th century, but he was a late bloomer as a composer. Most of his extant compositions, including some of the greatest operas ever written, are products of the early 20th. This collection contains choral works from every period of the composer's life as a musician, including a set of four songs from as early as 1873. Moreover, the Moravian Teachers Choir, which presents the repertoire most persuasively in this recording, is the very ensemble for which many of the pieces were originally written. From the folk-like directness of the early songs to the mature sophistication of those dating from 1917 and 1918, these short choruses are unfailingly engaging."

David Vernier

"To most Western ears, these often surprisingly sophisticated works for unaccompanied male chorus will have a familiarity born of the more commonly heard music performed by Russian men's choirs. But to the more knowing listener, the mellifluous sounds of the Czech language will declare the decidedly different origin of these pieces, most of which are based on Czech and Moravian folksongs. The composer of these choruses, Leoš Janácek, is best known for a number of important operas, a mass, two string quartets, and for several significant orchestral pieces. But he also was occupied throughout his career with writing for chorus, especially men's voices, a genre for which he composed his first known work, Oráni (Ploughing)--the first piece performed on this recording. Janacek's considerable vocal/choral writing skills are evident everywhere--and he proves unafraid to challenge the singers with some very technically demanding lines. Textures and structures vary, and the harmonies extend from Brahmsian solidity to Dvorákian fluidity, alternately colored with sections of complex counterpoint, liberal use of chromaticism, and straightforward chordal declamation.

"Janacek's acclaimed mastery of theatrical music is at work here, especially in choruses like The Quilt, Your Wondrous Eyes, and Seventy Thousand--a spectacular and stunningly original six-minute-long setting of a poem about a revolt by Silesian miners. Janácek takes many of these pieces into areas that are quite dramatic, at times almost to the point of speech, with harmonies increasingly more abstract. ...the remarkable Moravian Teachers Choir (which, by the way was the ensemble responsible for inspiring many of Janacek's choral works after its founding in 1903), is undaunted by anything the composer throws at them. The highest tenor parts sometimes sound a bit strained, but overall, this is outstanding singing--powerful, sensitive, and sometimes even glorious--that confirms the group's nearly century-old tradition of excellence. I'm certainly not fond of everything on this program, but this is an important and ultimately rewarding collection. The sound is appropriately full-bodied and sensibly balanced, with rousing, hold-on-to-your-hat presence."

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