Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, December 2012

My new favourite Taras Bulba, elevated by superb orchestral playing and the most emotional (and least repetitive) ending I’ve yet heard. The Lachian Dances and my favourite cover painting of 2012 don’t hurt. © 2012 MusicWeb International

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, September 2012

Antoni Wit has become one of my favorite modern conductors; in fact, he’s one of those go-to people when I am looking for any sort of offbeat Eastern European orchestral music, because everything he performs is of a very high order. Yet, in a way, Wit has surpassed even himself with this incredible disc…the incredible detailing of this performance, combined with Wit’s usual sweep and flowing lines, produces a performance like no other. There’s no other way to put it—the music comes alive in such a way that it sounds as if the musicians in the Warsaw Philharmonic are playing their hearts out on each and every note. There’s also a very fine version of this piece by Jonathan Nott with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra on Tudor 7135, but it’s not like this. Charles Mackerras was considered one of the finest interpreters of Taras Bulba, and left us recordings of it, but they don’t come close (in my estimation) to the wonderful feeling and detail of the Wit or Ančerl versions.

With that in mind, I am also able to appreciate Wit’s performances of the lighter Lachian and Moravian Dances, which he also performs with a combination of elegance and élan…an outstanding recording. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Chris Morgan
Scene Magazine, August 2012

…Leoš Janáček’s…highly original music…is the subject of a new CD release from Naxos. Opening with the rhapsody Taras Bulba, esteemed conductor Antoni Wit expertly guides the instrumentalists of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra through a highly romanticized historical saga, based on a novella by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. First movement solos by English horn, violin and oboe articulate sublime pathos evoking twin passions of love and war, while still allowing the nuanced personality of the individual player to shine. Later, a battle rages, and trombones sound the war-cry of the composition’s titular character, who eventually meets his horrific demise during the final section of the piece, amid a stirring eulogy of brass, organ and bells. Other highlights of the recording include a suite of five Moravian Dances, which demonstrates beyond any doubt Janáček’s fondness for the indigenous traditions of his native Czechoslovakia, as well as his ability to translate that affection into music everybody could enjoy. A revelation. © 2012 Scene Magazine Read complete review

John Warrack
Gramophone, August 2012

Here we have Lachian and Moravian dances…all played with evident exhilaration by a Polish conductor and orchestra. The sound in general is warm and vivid, and Antoni Wit has a sure hand with all Janáček’s demands.

The six Lachian Dances (1924) are a selection from an earlier set of Valachian Dances (188–91), music from neighbouring regions, and are vivid arrangements for full orchestra; the six Moravian Dances…have much to indicate the direction Janáček’s thoughts were taking with the folk music of his native region. Fascinating to hear as versions of material that was feeding into his mature idiom, they are in their own right colourful and highly enjoyable pieces, relished here by the Polish players. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Jan Smaczny
BBC Music Magazine, August 2012

Taras Bulba brings together Janáček’s love of Russian literature and his ability to turn the most unlikely subject matter into music of astonishing power © 2012 BBC Music Magazine

James Manheim, July 2012

…this is an absolutely superb release, with a sterling recording of a 20th-century orchestral standard paired with enjoyable early works of the composer on the program, Leos Janáček. The Warsaw Philharmonic is not the Berlin Philharmonic, but is arguably more comfortable in Eastern European repertory, and the beautifully controlled moods in the opening movement of the orchestral rhapsody Taras Bulba (Death of Andrij) are compelling indeed. The Lachian Dances of 1889-1890 are crisp, colorful examples of the late 19th-century orchestral miniature. Much rarer are the Moravian Dances of 1891, which show Janáček departing ever farther from Dvořák’s models. Wit seems to hold all this music in the palm of his hand and to be playing the orchestra like a giant musical instrument. The sound is quite good, and Naxos’ engineers fuse the sound environments of the two venues (the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall and the Witold Lutoslawski Studio of Polish Radio) effectively. Highly recommended. © 2012 Read complete review

Donald R Vroon
American Record Guide, July 2012

…I am very happy with the Lachian Dances here. I like Serebrier on Reference (gorgeous sound) and Albrecht on Orfeo (sound and interpretation very lively), but I think Wit is slightly better than either. Wit’s violins sound Czech—sound the way violins should sound in Dvořák and Janáček. The others don’t cultivate that wild, almost manic sound; they are better behaved and blend normally. © 2012 American Record Guide

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, June 2012

The music opens with the “Death of Andrij,”…As he does with the rest of the Rhapsody, Wit adopts a broadly lyrical approach, letting the musical pictures unfold gracefully and deliberately. Nevertheless, when the high drama arrives, Wit is ready for it and creates a heady forward momentum. In other words, you'll get both Romance and excitement from the conductor.

Coupled with the rhapsody we find two dance suites by Janacek, the Lachian Dances (1889-90) and the Moravian Dances (1891). They exhibit a much lighter, more joyous tone than the Taras Bulba music, as we might expect, and hint of Dvorak. Wit appears to be enjoying himself, and so do we.

Naxos recorded the music at Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, Poland…obtaining generally good results. The sound is very smooth and natural, with a wider dynamic range and transient impact than we usually find on a Naxos release…there is a decent sense of depth and space to the acoustic. Along with a strong bass accompaniment, the organ pedals sounding quite deep and authoritative, the result is pleasing, if not entirely “audiophile.” © 2012 Classical Candor Read complete review

Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, June 2012

Antoni Wit’s Taras Bulba is the best I’ve heard. It is not quite like any other recording, not Ancerl’s or Hruša’s or the few by Mackerras, and the distinctiveness comes from several sources.

First: the Warsaw Philharmonic. In the first-movement climax and the thrilling first half of the finale, the brass section weighs in with a booming power so satisfying that I find myself grinning to hear it. The string section has a creamy splendor and the tightness of the ensemble far outclasses half the bands that have ever touched this music…

…but much of the credit belongs to Antoni Wit, who shapes this Taras Bulba in entirely new—and entirely logical—ways. Take the first movement. It opens at a much slower tempo than usual, and this is something of a hallmark for Wit’s style. In nearly all his performances he can adopt broader pacing without sacrificing a bit of rhythmic precision. That’s the case here, where instead of feeling sleepy the first scenes have an irresistible pulse, pushing us steadily forward. The climactic battle scene erupts with absolutely massive power and a well-managed leap in tempo. The brass, as I’ve mentioned, could raise the dead.

The couplings are the Lachian and Moravian Dances. They’re still enjoyable, especially the Lachian Dances, which do feel like a new set to pair with the Dvořák. The ‘Blacksmith’s Dance’ is especially delectable as it whips itself into an ever-greater fury, while the flutes ‘From Celadna’ sound straight out of Dvořák. The Moravian Dances are extremely hard to come by, despite their simple pleasures (the 52-second long ‘Kalamajka’ steals the show). © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Bill O'Connell
WCLV, June 2012

…the Warsaw Philharmonic and Antoni Wit…[gave]…Leos Janácek’s musical version of the Cossack’s story a robust, colorful treatment on this new disc from Naxos. Equally energetic performances of Janácek’s Lachian and Moravian Dances fill out the disc. © 2012 WCLV Read complete review, May 2012

Both sets are essentially collections and orchestrations of folk tunes, but they are more than that, being specifically intended by Janáček as cultural preservation: they are not expansions and colorations of folk music in the manner of Liszt or Dvořák, but attempts to keep alive a fading sense of Czech history and community. Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic perform the dances with vigor and rhythmic vitality, and also deliver a fine rendition of the Taras Bulba rhapsody of 1918, which is based on a novel by Nikolai Gogol and which powerfully presents three intensely dramatic episodes from the tale—one focusing on the death of each of Taras Bulba’s sons and one on his own death, which includes Egmont-like defiance and a prediction of the ultimate defeat of his enemies. Taras Bulba contains some of Janáček’s most effective instrumental writing and orchestration, and the performance here does it full justice. © 2012 Read complete review

WQXR (New York), May 2012

Taras Bulba (1915) is based on the fifteenth century Cossack hero of Nikolai Gogol’s “gruesome story.” Check out how Janacek builds drama in a menacing battle sequence, with visceral contributions from the low brass. The Moravian Dances of 1891 also packs a punch, every bit as colorful as Dvorak’s folk style but with some extra bite. © 2012 WQXR (New York) Read complete review

David Hurwitz, April 2012

Everything about this disc is fabulous: the performances, the coupling, and the sonics. Antoni Wit’s Taras Bulba sounds like no other. It’s full of details that you won’t have heard before, particularly in the layering of textures and shades of woodwind color.

…finding appropriate couplings for the composer’s scant orchestral output is never easy…Wit’s choice of the two dance suites turns out to be an inspired decision, since they offer music that marries very well with Taras Bulba. They are delightful…Strongest recommendation. © 2012 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2012

Leos Janáček was hardly known outside of his homeland sixty years ago, but today the gruesome story of Taras Bulba has become a virtuoso orchestral showpiece. It was composed two years after his opera, Jenůfa, a work that had at last brought him belated acknowledgement in Prague. He chose Gogol’s story of the violent life of the Cossack leader, the opening movement picturing the scene of Taras putting his son to death for disloyalty, and later we have his second son, Ostap, murdered by the victorious Poles. The final movement sees his own death nailed to a tree and burned, the tortured harmonies capturing the scene. Antoni Wit, the conductor of this new recording, takes a more musical and less brazen view than many offered on disc in recent times, looking for the subtle details in the score both in orchestral colours and dynamics. Maybe we have come used to larger than life cymbals and timpani, for everything we hear here are the sounds we would experience in the concert hall. The two sets of dances are played as symphonic dances that are permitted to have a degree of rhythmic liberty. Seldom getting hectic they do have their full quota of vivacity, the Blacksmith’s Dance, the third of the Lachian Dances, being of suitable rude vigour. Wit is particularly effective in the ‘lazy’ dances, the Saw Dance that ends the work being particularly effective. The rather quirky and short Moravian Dances are equally characterised by their unhurried approach. The playing of the Warsaw Philharmonic throughout is so polished and refined, the warmth of the strings a particular joy. I guess a Blu-ray version will not be long coming. © David’s Review Corner

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group