Janacek: Glagolitic Mass; Taras Bulba

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Janacek
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Glagolitic Mass; Taras Bulba
PERFORMER: Venceslava Hruba, Rosemarie Lang, John Mitchinson, Theo AdamCzechoslovak Radio Choir, Prague; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Kurt Masur
CATALOGUE NO: 432 983-2 DDD
Questions of authenticity touch all periods of music these days. Not even a 20th-century classic like Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass is exempt. Recent research by Paul Wingfield shows that the work as heard by Janacek was quite different from today’s version. This is mentioned by the commendably thorough insert note, but the performance itself is of the now standard score without extra pedal timpani and with the Intrada at the end only.

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Even so, there is much to enjoy in Masur’s direct approach. Although this is a live performance, there is little to object to in the accuracy and eloquence of the string playing. The main problem is the recording of the choir: backward and at times damagingly distant. A pity, since Venceslava Hruba is a marvellous solo soprano and Masur projects a clear image of the work which produces some superb climaxes. The only disappointment is a slightly throwaway approach in die ‘Agnus Dei’. The coupling is a compelling performance of Taras Bulba. Jan Smaczny