This terrific release takes two Janácek works for string orchestra, one early, one late, and uses them as brackets for the Haas and Martinu pieces. Of greatest interest will be the arrangement for large ensemble of the First String Quartet by Richard Tognetti. This has been recorded before (by Tognetti for this same label, no less), but the additional repertoire selected here makes for a uniquely compelling program. Tognetti’s transcription is interesting. He preserves a great deal of the solo string texture, often reserving the full ensemble for climaxes which, even in their original form, have a quasi-orchestral character. It works least well at the start of the second movement (first soundRead more clip), where no large ensemble can reproduce the intimacy and flexibility of pulse that Janácek seems to have envisaged. The climax of the finale, on the other hand, is glorious (second sound clip).
As for the remainder of the program, the Janácek Chamber Orchestra plays the early and (relatively) less interesting Suite beautifully, with swifter-than-usual tempos that are all to the good. Haas’ Study is probably the most famous work to come out of the Terezin concentration camp. He was one of the few composers to show the influence of Janácek, clearly audible in his fondness for short, arresting motives projected over rapid ostinatos, although the harmonic idiom is more acerbic, less obviously “folksy.” The Martinu Sextet is the composer’s own arrangement–an excellent piece of work that’s totally unknown. As with the other pieces, the performance is excellent in every respect, and it represents a valuable addition to the repertoire for string orchestra. Extremely natural, vivid sonics round out this intelligently planned, totally enjoyable collection.