Today, I have a few more early recordings of the music of Leoš Janáček, all first recorded versions. The Diary of One Who Disappeared, never before reissued, is stunning. Tenor Josef Válka is not a well-known name (he does appear in a number of Bakala’s recordings, including that of the Glagolitic Mass), but aside from a less than ideal set of high C’s at the end, his performance is a pleasure to hear. He seems to strike just the right balance between musical sensitivity and the straightforward element that the character calls for. And he produces a very satisfying, full-bodied sound coupled with very good intonation, no mean feat in the work. Páleníček recorded the work again in the 1950’s with the wonderful tenor Beno Blachut, and that performance (available on Cd) is another authoritative version, but I’m happy to have both. Oddly enough, just now I’ve been made aware (via Operashare) of a 1953 Radio Brno recording, also with Válka, but with Břetislav Bakala playing the piano part, joining Rafael Kubelik as another Czech conductor to play this piano part!
I haven’t been able to find out much about the Prague Wind Quintet (augmented and dubbed the Prague Wind Sextet on the record labels), but according to one source, they were formed in 1928, by Václav Smetácek, oboist (later to gain fame as a conductor). Despite the dim sound, one can hear that this is a very tightly organized and well played reading. Unfortunately, Páleníček’s first recording of “On the Overgrown Path” is missing the last 78rpm record in the copy available to me, but since it fit on a cd with the other works here, I thought it might be welcome.
Zápisník zmizelého (The Diary of One Who Disappeared)
Josef Válka, Tenor; Růžena Horáková, Mezzo-soprano
Josef Páleníček, Piano
Esta H 5158-61
Mládí (Youth, wind sextet)
The Prague Wind Quintet
Rudolf Hertl, flute
Václav Smetácek, oboe
Vladimír Ríha, clarinet
Otakar Procházka, horn
Karel Bidlo, bassoon
and Václav Kotas,
Recorded May 1938
Po zarostlém chodníčku (On the Overgrown Path)
Book 1, Nos. 1-7 only
Josef Páleníček, Piano
Ultraphon G 12889/90 (incomplete, records 1 & 2 only)
Note: Thanks to a generous collector who sent me a dub of the 3rd disc, this complete recording is now available here!
Note: In the Mp3 download I chose to include the Diary in two versions, one individually tracked, and one (in a separate folder) as a single track with a cue sheet included. I recommend the Foobar 2000 program for gapless playback and burning of the separately tracked version if you’re using Windows)
Thanks to Tobias (for the Diary) and Mike Gartz (for the balance) for the very rare source material!