Glagolitic Mass; Sinfonietta, Taras Bulba; The Fiddler’s Child
Hibla Gerzmava (soprano), Veronika Hajnová (alto), Stuart Neill (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass), Aleš Bárta (organ); Prague Philharmonic Choir; Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Jiří Bělohlávek
Decca 483 4080 100:18 mins (2 discs)
This collection of Janáček’s most popular orchestral music along with the Glagolitic Mass dates from between 2013 and 2017, the last being the Sinfonietta which is also one of the last recordings Bělohlávek made. The performance of the Mass is based on the 1927 premiere and has a rather more angular character than the version usually recorded. Alongside the strength of Bělohlávek’s interpretation is superb singing from the Prague Philharmonic Choir and the soprano Hibla Gerzmava who combines an unforced radiance at the start of the Gloria with gripping drama later in the movement. With an absolutely intoxicating account of the final Intrada, overall this rendition must count as one of the most appealing performances of the Mass available.
The opening of the Sinfonietta shows an earthy, no-nonsense approach. Bělohlávek’s reading blends an infectious attention to orchestral detail with moments of penetrating vision that complement Janáček’s volatile portrait of the Moravian capital, Brno, superbly. The orchestral playing, while vivid throughout, is not always perfect, but the pungency of his interpretation has an authenticity that is compelling at every stage. The sense of stories being told in Taras Bulba and The Fiddler’s Child is almost unrivalled in my experience of the recorded history of these two works, and the Czech Philharmonic, playing magnificently, enter into the drama at every stage. As a whole, this excellently-recorded collection is powerful testament to Bělohlávek’s depth of understanding of repertoire close to his heart along with his characteristic integrity and bracing lack of sensationalism.