JANACEK GLAGOLITIC MASS
A work of exultant rhythms, incantatory melodies and primordial force
Masses are among the most beautiful works ever written for chorus and orchestra; those of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert immediately come to mind. But the 20th century also has no shortage of impressive masses, and one of the grandest, most moving, often gripping, and frequently heavenly, is a mass written in 1926 in a language last spoken about a thousand years ago: the Glagolitic Mass by Leoš Janá?ek (1854-1928).
Janá?ek, who achieved worldwide celebrity late in life, wanted to emphasize the common bonds between the Slavic nations by writing the text in Old Church Slavonic, which used an alphabet devised by Saints Cyril and Methodius called “Glagolitic.” The choice of this ancient language also reflects the Moravian composer’s sympathies with the Slavic nations that were under the yoke of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Written for soloists, chorus, organ and orchestra, the Glagolitic Mass is divided into eight sections that give the greatest prominence to the chorus while also containing impressive solos, especially for soprano and tenor. Completely unexpected is the startlingly wild and furious organ solo (Iveta Apklana at the organ) that follows the Ordinary of the Mass and precedes the final movement, curiously titled “Intrada,” or Introduction. With its glorious build-ups of brass and strings, this grand piece seems to want the audience to go out and “enter” the world...
In this “blistering performance” (The Guardian) filmed at the Lucerne Easter Festival, the Chorus complemented the instrumental ensemble of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Mariss Jansons to “give a compelling reading with an enormous breadth of dynamics and an impressive presence, and with the Slovak-Russian quartet guaranteeing idiomatic soli” (Neue Zürcher Zeitung).