Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra / Antoni Wit

Janácek: Glagolitic Mass; Sinfonietta

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The Naxos label has done excellent work in bringing the music-making of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra with conductor Antoni Wit (and its fine associated choir) to wider distribution. There are a number of fine recordings of Leos Janácek's Glagolitic Mass and the perversely named Sinfonietta with its short movements but giant orchestra; many of the ones from the works' Czech homeland are good. But this one, unusually well recorded on a couple of occasions at Warsaw's Philharmonic Hall, can stand with any of them. The Glagolitic Mass, setting texts in Old Church Slavonic, is a work with a remarkably wide emotional range, from quiet introspection to Wagnerian triumphalism devoted, depending on whom you ask, to the goal of Czech nationalism or of pan-Slavic ideals. The conductor's job includes keeping the critical thread of text articulation going through a very complex orchestral landscape, and here Wit excels. Credit too goes to the Warsaw Philharmonic's brass section, which makes it cleanly through the big ensembles of both the mass and the Sinfonietta. The organ postludium of Jaroslaw Malanowicz, the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir, and the four Polish soloists (who face serious technical challenges of their own) all keep up with Wit's overall scheme. These are clear, confident interpretations that do justice to both of these late Janácek pieces, masterworks of the 20th century.

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