Musica Florea / Marek Stryncl

Jan Václav Hugo Vorísek: Missa solemnis; Václav Jan Krtitel Tomásek: Messa con Graduale et Offertorio

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The two Bohemian composers represented on this release are both known for their piano works and for a few orchestral pieces, when they are known at all. The two substantial masses heard here are quite new to the performance world; the Mass in B flat major, Op. 24, of Jan Vorísek was first published in 1997, and the Messa con Graduale et Offertorio, Op. 46, of Václav Tomásek was retrieved by the Czech historical-performance group Musica Florea from manuscripts at the Czech Museum of Music, by means of photographs. That's an admirable enterprising attitude, and in general the music, while not earth-shattering, helps fill in the generally sketchy picture of choral music in the early Romantic period. Both pieces are masses with an added Gradual and Offertory, and they are further linked by the fact that Tomásek was Vorísek's teacher. The Tomásek mass is more than a decade older than the Vorísek, and it clearly shows the influence of what conductor Marek Stryncl, in a booklet interview, called Beethoven's "ponderous premeditation," with lots of unison choral entrances over brass fanfares, quite hard-edged in this historical performance. Yet it was Vorísek for whom Beethoven reserved some of his rare moments of appreciation of other composers, and one can see why here. The Mass in B flat major, composed in 1825, is a bit uneven, but it has passages that don't sound like Beethoven, Schubert, or anybody else. Try the plagal construction of the short Graduale, Benedictus es, Domine (track 3), for example. The Vorísek Offertorium Quoniam iniquitatem (track 9), an entr'acte between the two masses, is also a work that deserves wider knowledge. The engineering, accomplished at Prague's Church of the Virgin Mary Under the Chain, is quite good, with clear text intelligibility. All booklet texts are given in English, French, German, and Czech.

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