Janáček: The Cunning Little Vixen

Reviewed on Mon 22 Jul, 2019

Johannes Debus’ fresh, fleet and often vibrant account of The Cunning Little Vixen benefits greatly from his deft inking in of light and shade.

Feted on DVD, all but ignored on CD, Johannes Debus’ fresh, fleet and often vibrant account of The Cunning Little Vixen benefits greatly from his deft inking in of light and shade, the brimming vitality of a cast younger than usually assembled for Janáček’s sweet-sour masterpiece, and the palpable adrenalin of a live (and crisply captured) recording. Louise Alder’s infectiously engaging, vocally nimble Vixen, Jenny Carlstedt’s attractively swashbuckling Fox and Simon Neal’s deftly nuanced Forester, caught tragically between the worlds of humans and animals, provide a solid centre, ably supported by richly idiomatic, atmosphere- and emotion-laced playing from the Frankfurt orchestra. Decca’s 1982 Charles Mackerras-led recording remains first choice, Simon Rattle’s English-language 2003 Chandos account a close second, but Debus stands favourably alongside both for his immediacy and intelligence. A pity, then, about the disappointing booklet, where a surfeit of glossy colour photographs are poor recompense for a decidedly lacklustre essay, a German libretto based on surtitles and no English translation.
–Michael Quinn