WORKS: Czech Christmas Mass; 3 Pastorellas
PERFORMER: Magdalena Kozená (mezzo-soprano); Gabriela Eibenová (soprano), Jaroslav Bπezina (tenor), Michael Popí≥il (bass); Capella Regia Musicalis/Robert Hugo
CATALOGUE NO: 477 8365
The festive season in the Czech lands would be unthinkable without Ryba’s Czech Christmas Mass. Customarily performed on Christmas Eve, it is as much a part of the celebrations as the traditional dish of carp.
Jakub Ryba was born in 1765 and wrote a large amount of church music including this Mass which dates from 1796; it belongs to a long tradition of Central European liturgical music which mingles the native tongue with the Latin Mass in order to celebrate Christmas. Notwithstanding a fairly hefty debt to Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Ryba’s work has distinct rural charm including simple, ear-catching melody and imitations of bagpipe drones. But along with many of the other Christmas Masses and related Pastorellas, three of which are included here, its slightly repetitive tendency means that – as its title suggests – the work is perhaps best appreciated on a once-a-year basis.
This delightful recording makes the most of the Czech Mass’s slender charms. Magdalena Kozená is part of a nicely balanced vocal ensemble and Robert Hugo conducts with vigorous involvement. The tenor and bass soloists, Jaroslav Brezina and Michal Pospísil, bring a credible sense of dramatic involvement to their near-operatic roles. Brightly recorded, this performance is undoubtedly the best available of this much-loved work. Jan Smaczny