The more players there are in a string orchestra, the easier it tends to be to hide slackness in unanimity of attack and line. Which makes the playing of the Janáček Chamber Orchestra all the more impressive: this body of only twelve musicians (4–3–2–2–1) plays with such singularity of purpose and depth of tone that it’s easy to imagine one is listening to a full-sized orchestral string section (the impression is arguably enhanced by the resonant but not over-clouding church acoustic of the recording).
This wedding of chamber-like flexibility and tonal richness is at its best in Richard Tognetti’s masterly transcription of Janáček’s ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ Quartet for orchestral strings – none of the work’s textural audacity or emotional volatility are lost here. The players also bring suavity and charm to the same composer’s early Suite, written in 1877 under the spell of Dvořák’s string Sererade. And there is both tenderness and verve in the Study for strings by Pavel Haas, a work of remarkable optimism given that it was written at the Terezín concentration camp in 1943. Martinů’s own string-orchestra arrangement of his 1932 Sextet completes this immensely enjoyable disc, with a performance full of crisp rhythms and well-shaped lines.
From the October 2011 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.