Janacek Choral Works Return to Czech Roots

It’s no secret that Czech composer Leos Janacek used the folk traditions of Bohemia and Moravia for the basis of his own musical language. In his most advanced works (like his string quartets), those folk traditions are heard but faintly in the background. As this new collection shows, the folk music of Janacek’s native land was front and center in his choral compositions.

The Cappella Amsterdam and their director Daniel Reuss may not be Czech, but they perform these works with conviction and convincing authenticity. The most musically complex are the stand-alone pieces. Some, like The Wild duck and the Wolf’s Trail our straight-forward settings of folks songs. Others, such as the Ave Maria, Our Father, and the heart-breaking Elegy on the Death of My Daughter Olga use folk material as part of a deeply personal expression of piety and yearning.

Also included are two large collections. Nursery Rhymes are just that — twelve children’s songs. While not sounding entirely care-free in Janacek’s settings, they still retain a simple innocence that makes this set particularly appealing.

The album leads off with Six Moravian Choruses. Janacek transcribed these works from Dvorak’s Moravian Duets, and results are wonderful. These choruses combine the best elements of Czech folk song, Dvorak’s and Janacek’s compositional styles.

If you enjoy the music of Dvorak, Smetana, or Janacek, then this album will be a treat. If you just enjoy good choral singing, then give this a listen — the Capella Amsterdam will not disappoint.

Leos Janacek: Choral Works; Six Moravian Choruses (after Dvorak)
Cappella Amsterdam ; Daniel Reuss, director ; Radio Blazers Ensemble 
Harmonia Mundi

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