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Janacek: The Makropulos Case / Mackerras, Et Al


Release Date: 03/27/2007 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 3138   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Leos Janácek
Performer:  Robert BrubakerCheryl Barker
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English National Opera OrchestraEnglish National Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Mackerras returns to a masterpiece and, in English, it's another triumph.

For his late operas, Janácek chose subjects no other composer would have imagined as viable as an opera, yet each time a masterpiece resulted. For this one Janácek turned to a story by fellow Czech Karel Capek about a woman who, thanks to a potion, has been kept alive for more than two centuries. Yet where Capek treats his central character as a cold, cynical creature, Janácek makes her warmer and more sympathetic. That reflects, so Sir Charles Mackerras suggests in an interview on Disc 2, the composer’s frustrations over his love for his muse, Kamila Stösslová.

This is Mackerras’s second recording.
Read more The first, in 1979, in his series of groundbreaking Janácek recordings for Decca, had the Vienna Philharmonic in radiant form accompanied a fine cast singing in Czech. It says much for the quality of the ENO Orchestra that for this new version in English the playing is equally polished, and often outshines that of the Viennese in its extra dramatic bite.

The recording brings an advantage, too – not as plushy as the Viennese version and with extra separation and clarity in a clearly focused acoustic. Those qualities suit the music better, which, as Sir Charles points out, is “a different kind of music”: Janácek emphatically did not want to sound like Strauss or Puccini. That extra clarity and separation means the words are astonishingly clear.

Cheryl Barker rivals Elisabeth Söderström on Decca in dramatic bite and when in Act 3 Emilia is at last given a sustained solo, Barker is even more powerful, aptly abrasive and less moulded. Though the American Robert Brubaker cannot quite match Peter Dvorsky on Decca, it is a focused, compelling performance. In some of the smaller roles the Czech singers had an advantage but their counterparts here run them close. On any count both versions have one marvelling at the score’s emotional thrust and dramatic compulsion, original in every way and one of Janácek’s supreme masterpieces.

-- Edward Greenfield, GRAMOPHONE (4/2007)
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Works on This Recording

1.
The Makropulos affair by Leos Janácek
Performer:  Robert Brubaker (Tenor), Cheryl Barker (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English National Opera Orchestra,  English National Opera Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923-1925; Brno, Czech Republic 
Language: English 

Sound Samples

The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act I: Prelude
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act I: Oh dear, my goodness! (Vitek, Gregor)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act I: Daddy, she really is wonderful (Vitek, Gregor)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act I: Come this way please (Kolenaty, Kristina, Marty, Gregor)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act I: Gone at last! (Gregor, Marty)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act I: Emilia (Gregor, Marty)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act I: found it! We've found it (Kolenaty, Marty, Gregor, Prus)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act II: Did you ever see such flowers? (Cleaner, Stage Hand, Prus)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act II: Janek, come on. No one here will see us (Kristina, Janek, Prus, Marty, Gregor, Vitek)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act II: Excuse me.Excuseme, may I... (Hauk, Marty, Prus)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act II: And the next! Is that the lot?
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act II: Allow me to ask you this question (Prus, Marty)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act II: Is that you, Bertie? (Marty, Gregor, Cleaner, Janek, Prus)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act III: Well? D'you hear me? (Marty, Prus, Chambermaid)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act III: Buenos dias Maxi! Why so early? (Marty, hauk, Chambermaid, Kolenaty, Gregor)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act III: The seal and th'initials E.M. (Gregor, Vitek, Kolenaty, Prus, Marty, Kristina)
The Makropulos Case, JW I/10: Act III: Fetch the doctor! (Kolenaty, Marty, Gregor, Vitek, Prus, Kristina, Chorus)
Interview with Sir Charles Mackerras: Sir Charles, you've devoted so much of your life to Janacek...
Interview with Sir Charles Mackerras: ...so you are the master of Janacek...
Interview with Sir Charles Mackerras: ...who was Australian singer...
Interview with Sir Charles Mackerras: ...not very interested...
Interview with Sir Charles Mackerras: ...quite a profund conducting of Janacek...
Interview with Sir Charles Mackerras: ...The Makropulos Case...

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