Festival Diary: Janacek Brno Festival 2020: Day 5

By Alan Neilson

My final day at this year’s Janacek Festival ended with a performance of its awarding-winning production of “Jenufa,”  starring Karita Mattila as the Kostelnička, Pavla Vykopalova as Jenufa, Peter Berger as Laca and Richard Samek as Števa, in what was a well sung presentation.

The conductor opted for a light reading which brought out the lyricism and folk melodies of the score but at the expense of the claustrophobia, pain, and menace which underpins the work.

I spent the morning checking out a couple of local art galleries, and to be honest, they were both slightly disappointing, although one or two works caught the eye, most notably a work, entitled “The Drinker” by Josef Čapek, who was to meet his end at the hands of the NAZIs in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

In the afternoon I attended a wonderful concert by the Zemlinsky Quartet at the Vila Löw-Beer, a beautifully restored Art Nouveau building, not too far from the city center, and an ideal venue for the performance: it was bright, airy with good sightlines and excellent acoustics. The program consisted of works by Suk, Janacek, and Zemlinsky. The Janacek piece, inspired by memories of his youth, was a transcription by Krystof Maratka of the composer’s wind sextet Youth. It is a beautiful work in which Maratka captured Janacek’s phrasing, dynamic differentiation, and agogics in what was termed a “creative adaptation.”