The Czech composer Leos Janácek was an atheist, but commissions and other opportunities to write religious music interested him as ways to realize aspects of his pan-Slavic musical vision. The collection of works on this third in Chandos' series of orchestral Janácek releases makes sense, for the composer's sacred music, from the mighty Glagolitic Mass down to small commissions, stands somewhat aside stylistically from the rest of his oeuvre. The highlight here is the Glagolitic Mass, so named for the alphabet in which this Old Church Slavonic adaptation of the traditional mass was written out. The work has a grand sweep through choral polyphony, a virtuoso organ solo (sample the work of Thomas Trotter on track 7, and you may find it worth the admission price by itself), a variety of folk melodies and rhythms, and a grandly operatic treatment of the "Credo." The work's dramatic gestures are beautifully realized by the rich voices of soprano Sara Jakubiak and mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley, who serve as foils to the very precise Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and a massed group of choirs. Chandos' engineering work at the Grieghallen (the smaller works are recorded at Bergen Cathedral, also with profitable results) is a major attraction here, as is the collection of rarely heard choral and orchestral works that round out the program (the final Our Father above all). Listeners may ask themselves whether they want a Glagolitic Mass with a bit more oomph, but this British-Nordic version has much to recommend it.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Glagolitic Mass, JW III/9|
|Otče náš, JW IV/29|