Antoni Wit / Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra

Janácek: Taras Bulba; Lachian Dances; Moravian Dances

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Some may bemoan the decline in recordings by big-budget orchestras, led by conductors who are household names and backed by elaborate marketing campaigns. But consider: among the new recordings that have replaced those are ones like this one. The graphics consist of the standard Naxos random painting. The Warsaw Philharmonic is not the Berlin or Vienna Philharmonic, and Antoni Wit is not Herbert von Karajan or Leonard Bernstein. And this is an absolutely superb release, with a sterling recording of a 20th-century orchestral standard paired with enjoyable early works of the composer on the program, Leos Janácek. The Warsaw Philharmonic is not the Berlin Philharmonic, but is arguably more comfortable in Eastern European repertory, and the beautifully controlled moods in the opening movement of the orchestral rhapsody Taras Bulba (Death of Andrij) are compelling indeed. The Lachian Dances of 1889-1890 are crisp, colorful examples of the late 19th-century orchestral miniature. Much rarer are the Moravian Dances of 1891, which show Janácek departing ever farther from Dvorák's models. Wit seems to hold all this music in the palm of his hand and to be playing the orchestra like a giant musical instrument. The sound is quite good, and Naxos' engineers fuse the sound environments of the two venues (the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall and the Witold Lutoslawski Studio of Polish Radio) effectively. Highly recommended.

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