Jiří Bělohlávek: 10 of his finest recordings

James McCarthy Thu 1st June 2017

Bělohlávek's legacy is built on benchmark recordings of Martinů, Dvořák, Suk and Janáček

Suk A Summer's Tale. Prague

BBC Symphony Orchestra / Jiří Bělohlávek

Chandos

'This richly scored and often exciting early-20th-century score is infused with local flavouring, at times disquieting (startling premonitions of Shostakovich’s Eleventh Symphony at 2'52" into the second movement, ‘Midday’), and Bělohlávek holds the tension in both pieces from the first bar to the last. Wonderful!' (Rob Cowan)

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Martinů Symphonies Nos 1-6

BBC Symphony Orchestra / Jiři Bĕlohlávek

Onyx

'Some other reviews of this set have paralleled the grace and elegance of Jiři Bělohlávek’s conducting with Martinů’s music in these works. I could not agree less. The six symphonies of Martinů, like the contemporary late works of Béla Bartók, are the war pieces of an artist in a state of pain and exile that is both personal and political. Their lyrical moments, perhaps, can be graceful and elegant although one suspects, as in the tricky (and, in some aspects, most modern) No 6, that this relative repose is either deliberately cynical or a mocking quotation of other composers who can afford to be at rest at such a time in the world’s affairs. That pain and stress are clearly, and superbly, realised here.' (Mike Ashman)

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Janáček The Excursions of Mr Broucek

BBC Symphony Orchestra / Jiři Bĕlohlávek

DG

'A lovable work it is...It all needs the sharp hand and light touch with the agile rhythms which Belohlávek brings to it…Jan Vacík gives a lively account of poor Broucek, preserving the little man’s dignity and allowing him a touching quality that sees him through it all.' (John Warrack)

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Janáček Kát'a Kabanová

Cast includes Karita Mattila, Miroslav Dvorský, Dalia Schaechter; Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real, Madrid / Jiři Bĕlohlávek

FRA Musica

'Jirí Belohlávek’s conducting is beautifully judged, whether in tension or release. Utterly brilliant!' (Richard Lawrence)

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Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos 1-5

Paul Lewis pf BBC Symphony Orchestra / Jiři Bĕlohlávek

Harmonia Mundi

'May I say at once that Harmonia Mundi’s eagerly awaited set is a superlative achievement and that Lewis’s partnership with Jiří Bělohlávek is an ideal match of musical feeling, vigour and refinement.' (Bryce Morrison)

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Dvořák Slavonic Dances, Opp 46 & 72

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Jiři Bĕlohlávek

Decca

'In my experience it’s fairly rare that conductors who excel in Dvořák’s first set of Slavonic Dances are quite as effective in his second set. Rafael Kubelík with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra provides a rare exception but with Jiří Bělohlávek I sense a preference for, or at least a special empathy with, the second set. Decca’s richly detailed Rudolfinum recording helps consolidate that impression, with its firm bass-line and wide dynamic range.' (Rob Cowan)

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Dvořák Cello Concerto

Alisa Weilerstein vc Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Jiři Bĕlohlávek

Decca

 'How disarmingly unforced and personable the Czech Philharmonic sound in the Concerto’s introduction, Jiří Bĕlohlávek providing a quietly authoritative, glowingly affectionate launching pad for Alisa Weilerstein’s superbly articulate entry.' (Andrew Achenbach)

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Martinů Symphonies Nos 5 & 6

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra / Jiři Bĕlohlávek

Supraphon

'Both works are splendidly rendered with No 5 best of all, a vivid interpretation benefiting from the buzz of a live performance. Belohlávek gets the balance in the tricky finale just right, letting the mood progression of sadness-joy-determination flow organically and logically.' (Guy Rickards)

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Martinů Nipponari. Magic Nights. Czech Rhapsody

Prague Symphony Orchestra / Jiři Bĕlohlávek

Supraphon

'The Prague Symphony Orchestra accompanies splendidly throughout and the superb acoustic of the Dvořák Hall is captured superbly. The recordings may be 20 years old but they sound wonderful. Highly recommended.' (Guy Rickards)

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Suk Asrael Symphony Britten Sinfonia da Requiem

BBC Symphony Orchestra / Jiři Bĕlohlávek

Supraphon

'There’s absolutely no denying the impressive rigour and shrewdly calibrated dynamic control of Bělohlávek’s meticulously prepared conception. Just listen to the way he handles that jaw-dropping culmination to the first movement, where the fff apex hits home with a seismic power to cap even those pounding bass-drum blows in the paragraph leading up to it. How tenderly, too, Bělohlávek shapes the heart-rending central portion of the third movement – and what ravishing tone he coaxes from the BBC SO strings in these glorious pages. All told, a memorably nourishing and, by the close, profoundly moving display, which is rightly afforded an enthusiastic reception.' (Andrew Achenbach)

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