Janácek: Operatic & Chamber Works

Author: 
John Warrack
janacek kata kabanova

JANÁČEK Káta Kabanová

  • Káta Kabanová
  • Capriccio
  • Concertino

The Decca series of Janacek opera recordings under Sir Charles Mackerras has produced some classic performances, and this splendid set of Kata Kabanova led the way in 1977, when it won a Gramophone Record Award. Here it now returns on CD. The actual sound is somewhat enhanced by the new medium, and this lends extra clarity to some of the very difficult problems which Janacek set conductors in the theatre. Among the most unusual is his use of the viola d'amore, an instrument to which he was devoted principally, it seems, for its name: he was at the height of his devotion to Kamila Stosslova, and wanted originally also to include the instrument in 'her' quartet, Intimate Letters. Thanks to sensitive sound engineering, ''the plaintive tone of the viola d'amore'', as Sir Charles writes, ''can be heard at many poignant moments, lending 'amore' in both name and sound''.
Sir Charles's superlative performance hardly needs further recommendation; nor does the wonderfully moving interpretation of the title role by Elisabeth Soderstrom establishing by an infinity of subtle touches and discreet, sensitive singing the picture of Kata as the richest and most human character in the drama. It is a performance that moves with the greatest intelligence between the public and the private drama of Kata's sad life, and the release into death which she sees as her only possible fulfilment. Most of the rest of the cast are Czech: they include Nadda Kniplova as a Kabanicha the more formidable in her repressive morality for the suggestion of banked up reserves of passion of her own. Libuse Marova and Zdenek Svehla make a lively pair of secondary lovers, and there is a sympathetic performance of Tichon from Vladimir Krejcik, an elegant Boris from Peter Dvorsky, and a strong Dikoj from Dalibor Jedlicka.
The CD format brings with it various changes, as usual not all for the better. The booklet retains John Tyrrell's invaluable synopsis and essay, now slightly revised, together with Sir Charles's more personal note; these are now translated into French, German and Italian, though the libretto is printed only in Czech and in Deryck Viney's serviceable English translation (and without his useful note on Czech pronunciation). The miniature size of the booklet means that there has to be dropped the charming drawing of Zdenka Podhajska as a model for Kata, together with her brief memoir of the composer. However, the extra space on the records means a pleasant bonus in the shape of the excellent performances of the Concertino and Capriccio extracted from the original five-record LP set of Janacek's piano and chamber works.'

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