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Cat. No. CHAN 3106(2) Price: Ł18 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 3106 - Janacek: Jenufa
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Available From: 10 May 2004
Jenufa, Janácek’s first theatrical masterpiece, is the tragedy of two women – Jenufa, the vain and impulsive young rural beauty, and Kostelnicˇka, her severe, religious and forceful stepmother – entwined in the consequences of their emotions. The work is based on a story by Gabriela Preissová, whose short stories and dramas of Moravian village life were among the first Czechoslovakian works of ‘kitchen sink’ realism and the story on which Jenufa is based, Her Foster-daughter, caused something of a scandal when it was first published in 1890. It is a grim tale of Jenufa, a village girl whose illegitimate child is murdered by her stepmother to protect Jenufa’s honour and wedding prospects.

Janácek was a late developer and was already in his early forties when he began work on the opera. Eight years elapsed between the writing of the first and second acts. There are still hints of traditional romantic opera in the early scenes, though Janácek’s unique musical world is apparent from the opening bars. By the time the curtain opens on the second act, however, there is no doubt that we are in the presence of a theatrical master craftsman. The opening notes – an abrupt fortissimo chord and a shuddering string tremolo – plunge us into the claustrophobia of the Kostelnicˇka’s cottage. The emotional intensity of this act brings to mind the mature operas of Puccini and it is fascinating to think of the young Tuscan and the Moravian working simultaneously on dramas which focus on young women abandoned by the fathers of their new-born children. What separates Jenufa and Madame Butterfly, though, is Janácek’s total lack of sentimentality. This, along with the severe conclusion, proved too much for his contemporaries, and he was forced to accept cuts and reorchestrations to soften the impact of the original.
Reviews

'In the hands of that master Janácek conductor, Sir Charles Mackerras, this Englsih-language recording puts a finger on the work's pulse: it's a truly magnificent performance.'
Gramophone 'Editor's Choice'

The recording is based on the acclaimed production of Jenufa from Welsh national Opera, which means that both singers and players have a knowledge and obvious affection for the score from the inside adding to the sense of a live performance.
The Guardian 'Classical CD of the Week'

'It will always be something of a special case, given that it's in English. But for sheer immediacy and clear comprehensibility this is a remarkable achievement. More to the point, the whole performance is outstandingly idiomatic, thrillingly sung and played, and conducted with absolute mastery.'
International Record Review

'It's an extremely effective performance of a marvellous work, and packs a powerful punch.'
Opera Now

'The English translation comes across with great immediacy, with Mackerras tailoring Janácek's sometimes over-effusive orchestration in favour of the singers, who acquit themselves with all the dramatic involvement and vocal security born of long stage experience.'
The Telegraph

Classical CD of the Week
'The recording is based on the acclaimed production of Jenufa from Welsh national Opera, which means that both singers and players have a knowledge and obvious affection for the score from the inside adding to the sense of a live performance.'

The Guardian

…a truly magnificent achievement.
Gramophone ‘Editor’s Choice’

'This should not be the only Jenufa in your collection, but after listening to it the Czech original' will be clearer and more meaningful.'
American Record Guide

 

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