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Janáček / Bělohlávek
“Janáček is truly a phenomenon in our music, and it is probably his expressive immediacy and spontaneous creative spurts that we always encounter in his music and that make it so precious and exciting.”
The total number of performances of compositions by
Leoš Janáček: 584
The three most performed works
|133 times||Taras Bulba. Rapsodie for orchestra|
The statistical data compiled, published and shared by Alexander Goldscheider © Citing from his book Jiří Bělohlávek: A Life in Pictures. [ 2 ]
Bělohlávek got in close contact with Janáček’s work during his first professional post with the State Philharmonic Orchestra in Brno (1972–1977). The performing tradition of the work of the famous Moravian author was very strong here and the orchestra was not eager to change anything. Any effort to introduce a new approach on the conductor’s part therefore required substantial perseverance and good argumentation. That is one of the reasons Bělohlávek used the opportunity to study Janáček’s work from the original sources: “I used to go to the archives of the Janáček museum, I was shocked by the manuscripts at first, but later I felt a kind of timid enchantment by the Maestro’s turbulent handwriting. In the manuscripts, I found many answers to my questions that I had not been able to fathom until then.” [ 3 ]
His first recording of a Janáček was made with the Brno orchestra in 1977 featuring Sinfonietta and Taras Bulba. An LP with both compositions was released in 1978 on the Panton label as part of the eight-record set commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Janáček’s passing. Both recordings were also included on the fourth CD of the set entitled Recollection (Supraphon 2018). Bělohlávek and the Prague Symphony Orchestra recorded for Panton a record of famous Czech and international opera arias with the soprano Jana Smítková and the baritone Klement Słowioczek (1984). This record included the aria of Káťa from the third act of Janáček’s Káťa Kabanová.
In the early 1990s, Bělohlávek signed an exclusive contract with the English label Chandos and recorded a number of Czech compositions for them. An important part of this collaboration comprised Janáček’s works: the rhapsody Taras Bulba, The Fiddler’s Child, a suite from the opera The Cunning Little Vixen, Sinfonietta and the Jealousy overture – all with the Czech Philharmonic. In 1999, he made a recording for Suprahon of all three then existing suites from Janáček’s operas – The Cunning Little Vixen arranged by Václav Talich and Václav Smetáček, From the House of the Dead arranged by František Jílek, and a recording premiere of The Excursions of Mr. Brouček arranged by the composer and musicologist Jaroslav Smolka.
Janáček is an author who leaves no one indifferent. I know people who reject him completely, who have found no path to him, but of course I know a much larger number of people who love him passionately. There is no lukewarm relationship to Janáček. His opera works have a secure place at all major opera houses around the world, it is a guaranteed dramaturgical hit.
In 2010, Bělohlávek conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Jaroslav Smolka’s suite from Janáček’s opera Káťa Kabanová composed in 2007. At the opening night of the BBC Proms in 2011, Bělohlávek conducted the same orchestra in Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, which was also on the programme of the opening concert of the 118th season of the Czech Philharmonic in 2013. In both concerts, they used the original version of the Mass prepared by Janáček for the premiere in 1927. In 2015, Bělohlávek, the Czech Philharmonic and its concertmaster Josef Špaček recorded Janáček’s violin concerto The Wandering of a Little Soul. The concerto was released later that year on the Supraphon label together with Dvořák’s and Suk’s violin concertos. A kind of epilogue to Bělohlávek’s recording activities of Janáček’s work was an album released in 2018 containing a live recording of the Glagolitic Mass from 2013 and later recordings of Taras Bulba, Sinfonietta and The Fiddler’s Child – all with the Czech Philharmonic and released on the Decca Classic label.
I cannot imagine a better introduction to Janacek’s music and a more fitting tribute to Jiří Bělohlávek than this new Decca production.
A major part of Janáček’s work are his operas. Bělohlávek staged nineteen productions, the first one being the production of Jenůfa in Seattle in the US back in 1985. It took him twelve years to perform this opera again, this time at the National Theatre in Prague in 1997, and in 2000 at the Glyndebourne Festival. In 2002, there was a production of Janáček’s Destiny at the National Theatre in Prague, under the stage direction of Robert Wilson. The year 2003 was marked by productions of Káťa Kabanová, at the Grand Théâtre de Genève and at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki. In 2004, Bělohlávek staged From the House of the Dead (again in Geneva) and in December of the same year, Bělohlávek had his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York with Káťa Kabanová, which was followed later by Jenůfa (Met New York, 2007) and The Excursions of Mr. Brouček, the first of Janáček’s operas, performed in a concert in February 2007 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London. A recording of this concert was released a year later on the Deutsche Grammophon label. May 2007 brought another Jenůfa, at the Washington National Opera, August 2008 saw a concert performance of Destiny, together with the BBC Symphony. Káťa Kabanová at the Teatro Real in Madrid followed, directed by Robert Carsen and preserved on a DVD (2010, FRA Musica). Bělohlávek staged Janáček’s Makropulos Affair twice – at the Opera San Fransisco in 2010 and later in 2012 at the Metropolitan Opera, and he gave one concert performance of the opera, in August 2016 together with the BBC Symphony Orchestra within the BBC Proms. The year 2016 also brought a concert performance of Jenůfa with the Czech Philharmonic in April (one performance in Prague and one in London) and Bělohlávek performed the same opera also in June 2016 at the Opera San Francisco.
This music is full of emotions. It is simply a kind of music that speaks to a person directly.
This may not be the last recorded word on Broucek, but right now it sounds like a major improvement on what we've had before: the strength and depth of the cast, and most of all the sound quality, and Belohlavek's feel for the tenderness, humour and romance of one of Janacek's least appreciated, yet most original dramas.
This may not be the last recorded word on Broucek, but right now it sounds like a major improvement on what we've had before: the strength and depth of the cast, and most of all the sound quality, and Belohlavek's feel for the tenderness, humour and romance of one of Janacek's least appreciated, yet most original drama.
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- 1.Telefonotéka. Český rozhlas 2013 (06.10.) Moderátorka Jana Vašatová. Available online
- 2.GOLDSCHEIDER, Alexander: Jiří Bělohlávek: A Life in Pictures. 2017. Kniha na více než 600 fotografiích a 160 stránkách dokumentuje celoživotní dráhu Jiřího Bělohlávka s použitím tisíců unikátních statistických údajů. Available online
- 3.VÍTOVÁ, Eva: Nad čím právě přemýšlí Jiří Bělohlávek. Harmonie 1999, s. 18–20.
- 4.Český rozhlas Vltava – Telefonotéka 2016. Available online
- 5.WRIGHT, Leslie: Leoš Janáček: Glagolitic Mass, Sinfonietta, Taras Bulba, The Fiddler’s Child. MusicWeb 2018. Available online
- 6.VEBER, Petr: Jiří Bělohlávek uvádí v Londýně hodně české hudby. Český rozhlas D-dur 2008. Available online
Telefonotéka. Český rozhlas 2013 (06.10.) Moderátorka Jana Vašatová. Available online
GOLDSCHEIDER, Alexander: Jiří Bělohlávek: A Life in Pictures. 2017. Kniha na více než 600 fotografiích a 160 stránkách dokumentuje celoživotní dráhu Jiřího Bělohlávka s použitím tisíců unikátních statistických údajů. Available online
VÍTOVÁ, Eva: Nad čím právě přemýšlí Jiří Bělohlávek. Harmonie 1999, s. 18–20.
Český rozhlas Vltava – Telefonotéka 2016. Available online
WRIGHT, Leslie: Leoš Janáček: Glagolitic Mass, Sinfonietta, Taras Bulba, The Fiddler’s Child. MusicWeb 2018. Available online
VEBER, Petr: Jiří Bělohlávek uvádí v Londýně hodně české hudby. Český rozhlas D-dur 2008. Available online