Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: Glagolitic Mass (1927 version); The Eternal Gospel
PERFORMER: Andrea Danková, Alˇzb∑ta PolaΩková (soprano), Jana S´ykorová (contralto), Tomá≥ Juhás, Pavel ∫ernoch (tenor), Jozef Benci (bass), Ale≥ Bárta (organ); Prague Philharmonic Choir; Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra/Tomá≥ Netopil

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The Glagolitic Mass was, in part, Janácek’s response to the poor state of Moravian church music by the 1920s. Predictably, it far outstrips the resources of even the grandest religious establishments. Moreover, the quiet, incense-laden air of the parish church or even basilica was not for Janácek: his church was the forested hillside and his candles the stars shining above the trees. The result is a masterpiece, but not an unproblematic one. Establishing a definitive text for most of Janácek’s music is no easy task and this performance is based on that of the premiere, later revised and moderated. As in Paul Wingfield’s edition recorded by Charles Mackerras, there are surprising differences, not least the extravagant use of three sets of timpani in the Credo.

Tomá≥ Netopil directs an excellent ensemble performance which, appropriately enough, reflects the operatic world of The Cunning Little Vixen and the Excursions of Mr Broucek. Soloists and organist are mostly superb and certainly deeply engaged; the radiant soprano solo at the start of the Gloria is particularly captivating. Tempos are on the fast side which at times leads to a slightly perfunctory feel, notably in both the Introduction and Intrada, and parts of the Gloria are a little garbled. But Netopil captures a fine sense of awe in the Kyrie and Agnus Dei, and the Credo, sometimes a little chaotic in performance, is beautifully shaped and genuinely thrilling. If not entirely perfect, this reading, along with a fine performance of The Eternal Gospel is well worth investigating.

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Jan Smaczny