It's hard to think of a twentieth century Czech-language opera that has enjoyed more success than Leos Janácek's Jenufa, and there is certainly no shortage of good recordings of it. Among the most exceptional is this effort for Decca led by Charles Mackerras. Elisabeth Söderström is riveting in her portrayal of the small-town girl desperate that the empty-headed Steva, played by Petr Dvorský, will marry her and legitimize their child.
This vastly entertaining comic work centers around Kate, a talkative, shrewish woman who is avoided by everyone at the village dance. Angry, she announces that she would dance with the devil himself, and voila!, the Devil Marbuel–not-quite-Lucifer, but a “junior” devil–enters and carries her off to Hell. The clever shepherd Jirka offers to rescue her. In Hell, all the devils sit around playing cards, and Kate and Marbuel enter.
While not a lot of its classical pursuits in the 2000s have panned out, Sony Classical has had good luck with violinists, thanks due to the popularity of contract player Hilary Hahn and an apparent assumption of the recording duties of the great Canadian violinist Lara St. John. This is Latvian violinist Baiba Skride's third disc, the first two being released simultaneously in 2004 and, of these, the violin solo disc – containing works by Ysayë, Bartók, and Bach – winning a German Echo Classic award.