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Notes and Editorial Reviews
A remarkable and vivid example of Söderström’s art.
If you want one don’t you want them all? We collected the Mackerras-Janá?ek series one LP boxed set at a time as they were issued. Then came their CD replacements. But beyond those battalions came the 9 CD box of all the collaborations  which currently retails for £47. This two disc
Makropulos Case in the Decca ‘Originals’ (so-called) series is on offer for £17. So, I suppose, since economics does come into it, given the now classic status accrued by these performances, you had better work out your priorities; individual sets or go the whole hog and collar the lot. I’d go for the latter option by the way, but you may have
gaps in your collection that may be satisfied by a more precision-targeted approach.
I mention all this at the outset because the big Decca box referred to above is so outstanding a bargain. This isn’t to say that you won’t want to augment performances from the Supraphon catalogue or indeed elsewhere. But it does illustrate the strength in depth of that marvellous body of recordings. In the case of
Makropulos, the obvious antecedent is Bohumil Gregor’s mid-1960s performance on Supraphon 1083512. There’s the Silja DVD from Glyndebourne as well.
Still, this 1978 recording had editorial advantages given that John Tyrell’s work on the ‘original’ edition established its functionality and superiority as a theatrical work of art. Those who know what I suppose one could call the kind of bowdlerised edition will know that in the Tyrrell-Mackerras version there is no final chorus. The starkness befits the subject matter that much better.
The intervening years have also brought losses, and this is true in the case of Elisabeth Söderstrom. Those who found her an odd choice for Emilia Marty presumably didn’t know that she gave the first concert and staged performances of the work in France; Paris in 1966 and the staged performance in Marseille in October 1968. In both cases Charles Bruck conducted. She was in her own way something of a pioneer and her rapport with the central character, and her idiomatic Czech, are remarkable, vivid examples of her art.
The spatial balances established by the Decca team remain as convincing as when one first heard them. The sense of a performance is established immediately. Then there is the question of dialogue rapidity, the natural establishment of Czech speech rhythms and the dictates of a recorded operatic experience - these things permeate the second scene (
Ach je, ach bože) where the Vítek of Vladimir Krej?ík sets the authentic tone. One can admire too the distracted intensity of Anna Czaková’s Krista, a sometimes overlooked cast member when all ears rend to turn to Söderstrom or to the Gregor of Peter Dvorský - and rightly so, since they’re both superb, the latter maintaining an ardency that is compelling; hear him at his apogee in his meeting with Marty
Kone?n?… Dob?e, Gregor in Act I. This was in fact, but for the heroine, an all-Czechoslovak cast, and sported Beno Blachut, then sixty-five, as a typically characterful Hauk-šendorf.
The strings of the Vienna Philharmonic impart a lustrous Puccinian glow when required - the Moravian composer seldom sounded as in love with the Italian master as he does in Act II’s scene with Marty (
Tos ty, Bertíku - CD1 track 13). Then too there is the supple blandishment of the Vienna winds to enchant one. These qualities are famously more rounded than Prague or Brno forces but they are undeniably effective and they impart no sense of unwonted ‘glamour’.
There is a dual language (Czech/English) libretto and the documentary notes, with detailed examples of Janá?ek’s correspondence with Karel ?apek, from whose play the opera was taken, furnished fascinating detail on the collaborative art - the libretto famously was the composer’s own.
A previous CD incarnation allowed in some performances by David Atherton but this one retains only the
Lachian Dances in the perfectly decent but not very special London Philharmonic Dances/François Huybrechts recording.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
The Makropulos affair by Leos Janácek
Elisabeth Söderström (Soprano),
Vladimir Krejcik (Tenor),
Blanka Vítková (Alto),
Peter Dvorsky (Tenor),
Václav Zitek (Baritone),
Anna Czaková (Mezzo Soprano),
Zdenek Svehla (Tenor),
Jiri Joran (Bass),
Dalibor Jedlicka (Bass),
Benno Blachut (Tenor),
Ivana Mixová (Alto)
Sir Charles Mackerras
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1923-1925; Brno, Czech Republic
Date of Recording: 09/1978
Venue: Wien Film Studios
Length: 95 Minutes 30 Secs.
Lachian Dances by Leos Janácek
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1924; Brno, Czech Republic
Date of Recording: 10/1970
Venue: Kingsway Hall, London
Length: 22 Minutes 22 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Great opera December 18, 2012
By Weston Williams (Chicago, IL) See All My Reviews
"I thoroughly enjoyed this recording of this opera. The opera is Janacek at his finest, full of orchestral color and a highly individualistic style. The story is interesting, and is particularly brought to life by the singers in this recording. Definitely recommended."
An extraordinary but not well known opera May 14, 2012
By Dr. Stephen Schoeman (Westfield, NJ) See All My Reviews
" "The Makropulos Case" which I saw in the superb production at The Metropolitan Opera
is not an opera to be missed. Nor one to be lightly taken.
There is first of all the music! Janaceck, not as well known in concert halls as he should be, supplied music which is at once dramatic, tender, and elegant. It is complex music harnessing all that a modern orchestra can give.
Janecek is like Mozart. You do not know what notes are coming next so inventive and creative is his music. All the more reason to listen to contemporary music!
The story of "The Makropulus Case" is that of a person who because of a formula for
a portion lives three hundred and thirty-seven years! She needs more of the potion because what her father a physician to the emperor had given her is wearing out. She was given the portion because Emperor Rudolf II feared taking it before her father tried it and her father did not want to take it first as well.
The moral of the opera is that eternal life does not guarantee the quality of life. She
is bored. She sees no difference between life and death. She does not want the formula but no one to whom she offers it will take it!
This is a very serious opera with great philosophical insight.
There is a place for the La Bohemes and for The Marriage of Figaros but there must be a place for operas with the kind of serious theme which is found in "The Makropulus Case"!
And more opportunities to hear the music of Janecek!
Dr. Stephen Schoeman "