Jan Smaczny
BBC Music Magazine
September 2019

The Diary of One who Disappeared, completed in 1920, marks a renaissance in Janáček's musical life. Having suffered years of neglect, the happy coincidence of Jenúfa's hugely successful Prague premiere in 1916 and falling in love with a much younger woman, Kamila Stösslová, released reserves of energy leading to a string of operatic masterpieces. This extraordinary song cycle tells the story of a young man, Jan, in love with a gypsy girl with whom he has a child. Strongly operatic in character it includes the gypsy, Zefka, herself and three off stage female voices; it was clearly a passionate expression of Janáček's new-found love for Kamila.

This excellently recorded performance is strikingly direct. The ebb and flow of the drama is brilliantly captured. Nicky Spence's tenor is flexible across a huge range; alongside passionate declamation there are moments of exquisite delicacy as in the sixth and eighth songs, and the final farewells are brilliantly judged. Václava Housková's gypsy may not be the last word in sensuality, but she communicates her bewitching charms utterly convincingly. Julius Drake's accompaniment is always alive to the operatic nuance of the work, crucially in the thirteenth number in which Jan loses his virginity. This is a magnificent realisation of a viscerally rewarding work.

Ríkadla (Nursery rhymes) is one of Janáček's most charming compositions. The original version is presented here and given with comic relish much enhanced by Victoria Samek's brilliant clarinet playing. This winning collection concludes with charmingly performed Moravian folksong arrangements from the 1890s.