Maia Brami, Camerata Zürich & Igor Karsko - Leoš Janáček: On An Overgrown Path

Review Maia Brami, Camerata Zürich & Igor Karsko - Leoš Janáček: On An Overgrown Path

The main work on this Janáček album is the piano cycle "On An Overgrown Path". However, on the ECM production one does not get to hear the original piano version, but an arrangement for chamber orchestra made by Daniel Rumler. Daniel Rumler belongs to the group of first violinists of the Camerata Zürich, who recorded this album under the direction of its concertmaster Igor Karsko. The Janáček work is flanked by the "Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale 'St. Wencelslas'" and the "Notturno", which originally formed the second slow movement in the composer's String Quintet No. 2.

When the meditation was written, Josef Suk was second violinist of the Bohemian String Quartet, whose concerts, as was customary at the time, had to begin with the Austrian imperial anthem. As a protest against this rule, Josef Suk decided to supplement the imperial anthem with a meditation on the St. Wenceslas Chorale, an old Bohemian spiritual song. The message of the chorale, with its plea for the welfare of the Czech people addressed to the national saint, was immediately understood by the audience.

Like Suk's "Meditation," Dvořák's "Notturno" is based on Bohemian folk music. Both works thus provide a fitting setting for the piano cycle by Janáček, who here, as in his other works, pays homage to the color of his homeland.

The fourth work on the album, immediately following the arrangement of Janáček's "On An Overgrown Path" and preceding the "Notturno," are poems of the same name by the French writer Maïa Brami, who wrote them exclusively for the musical work and who recites them herself. So, in view of the four works on this album, we are dealing with an album that has been pleasingly sensibly compiled with great thought.

The piano cycle "On An Overgrown Path" bears autobiographical character. When his dearly beloved daughter Olga died in 1903, her father sank into deep resignation. In the cycle, Janáček describes the paths he had walked by her side as a path overgrown with grass: "Overgrown with delicate clover is the path to my mother's house," reads a Moravian wedding song. Janáček borrowed this image from folk poetry. The titles of the pieces describe how the father's thoughts kept circling around the memories of his lost child - memories so dear to him that "I believe they will never end," as he confessed: "The measure of the suffering experienced in the process is greater than words can say." So, he clothed those painful memory images in piano drawings of tender melancholy and finest lines.

Daniel Rumler's arrangement for chamber orchestra elevates the original version for piano by the greater variety of colors and transparency that a string orchestra like the Camerata Zürich naturally possesses. The arrangement is quite exquisitely done and allows a new view of the composition that emotionally engages the listener at least as much as the piano version. The Camerata Zürich under its director Igor Karsko proves to be an optimal medium for portraying the grief Leoš Janáček felt at the loss of his daughter in his work "On An Overgrown Path“. The works of his compatriots that frame the album's main work receive an equally loving, idiomatic rendition, and the poetry recited by the author herself impressively continues the theme of Janáček's work "On An Overgrown Path" through the means of poetry.

Maïa Brami, speaker
Camerata Zürich
Igor Karsko, direction, lead violin

Maia Brami, Camerata Zürich & Igor Karsko - Leoš Janáček: On An Overgrown Path

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