HORENSTEIN Janáček: From The House Of The Dead, Sinfonietta (1953/55) - PACO173

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HORENSTEIN Janáček: From The House Of The Dead, Sinfonietta (1953/55) - PACO173

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JANÁČEK From The House Of The Dead (De la maison des morts*)
JANÁČEK Sinfonietta

*Sung in French
Live and studio recordings, 1953/55

Total duration: 2hr 7:00

Choeur & Orchestre National de la RTF
Vienna Symphony Orchestra

conducted by Jascha Horenstein

This set contains the following albums:

“A rustic character, very warm, open, pleasant and easy going”, was how Jascha Horenstein described Janáček after they met at the ISCM Festival in Frankfurt in the summer of 1927.  He took an immediate liking to the Czech composer and was fortunate to spend some time with him discussing his music, particularly the “Sinfonietta” and his last opera “From the House of the Dead”, at that time still a work in progress. Shortly after that meeting Horenstein conducted the Viennese premiere of the “Sinfonietta” (12 February 1928, with the same orchestra as featured on this recording), and during the 1931/32 season directed at least eight fully-staged performances in Düsseldorf of “Aus einem Totenhaus” to critical and public acclaim that resonated throughout Germany. For that production he was assisted, and his appreciation of the composer further stimulated, by Max Brod, a close friend and colleague of Janáček's (and of Kafka's) and a tireless promoter of his music. The production in Düsseldorf was the last time the opera was staged in Germany until the mid-1950s, burdened not only by Nazi disapproval but also by its uncompromisingly bleak prison camp setting, a sensitive subject in post-war Germany.

After the war Horenstein continued to perform Janáček's music on radio, on recordings and in concerts, including the Argentine premiere of the “Sinfonietta” in Buenos Aires in 1951 and the American premiere of “The Makropulos Case” in San Francisco in 1966. The present recording of “House of the Dead”, the opera's French premiere, was given in concert form in one of Radio France's Paris studios on 14 May 1953. Sung in French before an invited audience, the opera was broadcast live on national radio but the date clashed with a performance by the visiting Vienna State Opera, and Horenstein's prediction that “not a single member of the press will be at my concert!” was not much of an exaggeration. This was unfortunate because the occasion found him, the orchestra and the vocalists in top dramatic form - concentrated, involved and intensely engaged. To listen to the opera in French may disappoint those familiar with the original Czech, but there is compensation in some fine characterization and vocal acting from the principal members of the cast. The version recorded here uses Universal Edition's posthumously published score from 1930 that included various modifications by editors as well as the inclusion of a more optimistic ending, none of which were sanctioned by the composer and which have been discarded in the recently published critical edition.

Horenstein admired Janáček for his independence and for the utter originality of his language, untouched by the compositional trends of his time. In the case of the “Sinfonietta”, the work entered his repertoire after his meeting with the composer when he was still a young and inexperienced conductor, and resurfaced when he included it in several post-war performances before recording it for Vox Records in 1955, the source for the present recording. The sessions took place during a two week period in Vienna that also included recordings of “Taras Bulba”, Bruckner's 8th Symphony (PASC 429) and violin concertos by Bruch and Sibelius (PASC 516) played by Ivry Gitlis. An early recording of the “Sinfonietta” often criticized for its lack of propulsive energy, Horenstein's reading is contemplative and inward-looking, perhaps influenced by Janáček's withdrawal of its “Military” appellation, employing slow, deliberate tempi  and textures that introduce an element of wistful nostalgia into the music and underline the sombre nobility of its Slavic roots.

Misha Horenstein

HORENSTEIN conducts Janáček

Disc One

JANÁČEK   From The House Of The Dead (sung in French)
(De la maison des morts - Z mrtvého domu)

1. Overture  (6:00)
2. Act I - Aujourd'hui ils apporteront  (4:35)
3. Quel est ton nom  (3:44)
4. Allons, plus de colère  (2:31)
5. Il ne verrais pas jamais  (1:26)
6. Quand j'étais un bon jeune homme  (3:56)
7. Aljeja, t'as pas un bout d'fil  (7:32)

8. Act II - Introduction  (2:42)
9. Ah mon Aljejo  (2:38)
10. Alexandr Petrovic, on prépare la fête  (3:55)
11. Je dirais tout  (5:54)
12. Après quoi le temps passe  (2:48)
13. La la la la la  (6:21)
14. La pantomime de la belle meunière  (2:07)
15. Et là bas, que je vous demande  (1:48)

Disc Two
1. Act III - Jésus, fils de Dieu  (3:55)
2. Ah frères, va mourir, c'est pas rien  (5:27)
3. Mes pauvres petits frères  (3:15)
4. 'Vous', disait-il au vieux père  (3:22)
5. Filka m'à tourni  (2:04)
6. La vodka  (4:30)
7. Le lendemain  (10:10)
8. Hou ... Hou ... Hou  (6:29)
9. RADIO Closing announcement  (1:23)

Lucien Lovano (Bar.),  Chichkov
Roger Barnier (Ten.), Skuratoff
Jean Giraudeau (Ten.), Luka Kouzmitch/Filka Morosov
Doda Conrad (Bar.), Prison Commander
Bernard Demigny (Bar.), Alexandr Petrowitch/Gorjantchikov
Gerard Friedmann (Ten.),  Aljeja
Xavier Depraz (Bass), Don Juan/Tchekunoff
Michel Hamel (Ten.), Garde/Chapkine/Tcherevin/Sganarelle
Andre Vessieres (Bar.), Le Petit Forcat/Le Forgeron
Joseph Peyron (Ten.), Grand Forcat

Choeur d’Hommes de la RTF
, cond. Rene Alix
Orchestre National de la RTF
Live broadcast, Paris, 14 May 1953

JANÁČEK   Sinfonietta

10. 1st mvt. - Allegretto - Allegro maestoso (Fanfare)  (3:30)
11. 2nd mvt. - Andante - Allegretto (The Castle, Brno)  (6:57)
12. 3rd mvt. - Moderato (The Queen's Monastery, Brno)  (6:23)
13. 4th mvt. - Allegretto (The Street Leading to the Castle)  (3:04)
14. 5th mvt. - Andante con moto (The Town Hall, Brno)  (8:37)

Vienna Symphony Orchestra

Studio Recording, Vienna, 2-16 September 1955
Originally released on Vox PL9710

conducted by Jascha Horenstein

XR Remastered by  Andrew Rose
Source recordings and photo from the archives of Misha Horenstein
Special thanks to Marcel Hommel for extra assistance
Cover artwork based on a 1928 photograph of Jascha Horenstein rehearsing the Vienna Symphony Orchestra for the Viennese première of the Sinfonietta

Total duration:  2hr 7:00   
 CD1: 57:53  CD2: 69:06

Act 1

The days at the tsar's penitentiary on the river Irtysh are all the same; dreadful and infinitely long. The prisoners are expecting a new addition, apparently it is to be some kind of "gentleman". The guards bring in Alexandr Petrovich Goryanchikov, who is immediately beaten for the sole reason that he is a political prisoner. The prisoners who hear his cries gather around a cage with an injured eagle: they would like to at least free the eagle and release it from its cage, but the eagle is unable to fly. The return of the guards means that the prisoners have to return to their forced labour, which they try to make more tolerable by singing songs and telling stories. Luka Kuzmich tells them about his life and how he rebelled against the military authorities and even killed the major who had been abusing him. In the meantime the guards bring in Goryanichkov who is so weak after being beaten that he can barely stand.

Act 2

A year passes. Goryanichkov has befriended a young Tartar called Aljeja, who reminisces about his home. The prisoners are preparing for a holiday and so instead of working they can rest, get better food and organize a theatre performance. During the preparations, Skuratov tells his story: he shot a German who had lured his girlfriend away. In the meantime, a temporary stage has been set up and the play Kedrila and Juan can begin, performed by the prisoners themselves. But not for long - one of the prisoners gets very drunk and attacks Aljeja.

Act 3

Aljeja is taken to hospital. The dying Luka Kuzmich also lies there - moaning and breathing with difficulty, but he is conscious and listens to a story told by the prisoner Shishkov. He knew Akulina, a rich girl whose honour was publicly slandered by Filka Morozov. As a result she was given to the poor Shishkov as his wife. He discovers on his wedding night that Akulina is innocent, but when it turns out that she is deeply in love with Filka despite all of his slurs, Shishkov murders her from jealousy. During these final words, Luka breathes his last. Shishkov leans over him and suddenly recognizes Filka Morozov. The prisoner Gorjanchikov learns from the prison governor that he is to be released. He bids farewell to the prisoners, in particular Aljeja, and leaves for freedom. The eagle is also released, its wings having now healed. For the remaining prisoners the torturous life in prison continues as before.