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The Excursions of Mr Broucek

'Janáček: Orchestral Music' (CDA67517)
Janáček: Orchestral Music
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67517  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Janáček: Orchestral Music' (SACDA67517)
Janáček: Orchestral Music
Buy by post £10.50 SACDA67517  Super-Audio CD  
Movement 1: Introduction: The late evening
Movement 2: Moon waltz
Movement 3: Before dawn
Movement 4: Song of the Hussites
Movement 5: Procession of the victors

The Excursions of Mr Broucek
The grandest of Janácek’s overtly nationalistic works are, paradoxically, also a pair of rather bitter satires: The Excursion of Mr Broucek to the Moon and The Excursion of Mr Broucek to the Fifteenth Century, based on the popular stories by Svatopluk Cech. This pair of operas was composed over more than ten years, and involved at least as many librettists. Janácek began work on the ‘moon’ opera (intending to compose only that) in 1908 and after a fraught and agonizing decade it was finally completed in 1917. On 16 March that year Janácek sent a final request to his librettist F S Proházka. Just eight days later, on 24 March, in what seems in retrospect like an exercise in masochism, he asked Proházka if he would like to turn his hand to a completely new project: a libretto based on Cech’s fifteenth-century excursion for Broucek. Happily, work proceeded very quickly on this second opera and in December 1917 Janácek had finished the fifteenth-century excursion apart from some revisions, and he had also made some significant changes to the moon excursion. Janácek’s operatic diptych (or ‘Bilogy’ as he described it) about the kind of beer-stained moral vacuum that is personified by Mr Broucek contains some of his most radiantly aspirational music, and it also includes some extended orchestral – or largely orchestral – passages.

The first movement of the present suite is the prelude to The Excursion of Mr Broucek to the Moon. This is followed by the ‘Moon Waltz’, danced by the deliciously arty moon creatures – music of irrepressible energy which has an unstoppable momentum similar to some of the faster waltz music in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (written at much the same time as Janácek’s opera). The third movement begins with the lovely interlude which leads us back from the moon near the end of the first excursion, and leads into the tender duet between the young lovers Málinka and Mazal which brings the moon opera to a quietly rapturous (and rather Puccinian) close. The Excursion of Mr Broucek to the Fifteenth Century is both a grander and more serious opera, set in 1420 at a critical period in the history of the Czech lands when the Catholic Emperor Sigismund attempted to seize power with a Pan-European Crusader army – a move that was fiercely resisted by the Hussites. Music from the spectacular scene in Prague’s Tyn Church, with a gigantic Hussite Chorale (complete with organ, bells, and – in the original opera – a Bohemian bagpiper) forms the fourth movement of this suite. Finally, the climactic scene of the opera (and the entire ‘Bilogy’) is the victory celebration in the Old Town Square in Prague, following the famous victory by the Hussites over Sigismund’s forces in the Battle of Vítkov. This passage began as purely orchestral music, to which Janácek later (at the request of Gustav Schmoranz, the producer of the 23 April 1920 premiere at the Prague National Theatre) added vocal parts to welcome the victorious General Zizka and his officers. Thus the version in the suite provides a chance to hear what Janácek’s first thoughts were. In the opera itself, Broucek’s own craven cowardice is pitilessly exposed at the end of this scene before his undignified return to reality (he wakes up in a booze-soaked stupor, emerging from a beer-barrel), but in the suite a neat cut from the height of the procession to the closing bars of the work bring things to a swift and life-affirming close.

from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2005

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Details for SACDA67517 track 7
Movement 1: Introduction: The late evening
Recording date
5 June 2004
Recording venue
Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Janácek: Orchestral Music (CDA67517)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: September 2005
  2. Janácek: Orchestral Music (SACDA67517)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: September 2005
    Super-Audio CD
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