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Janacek: Glagolitic Mass; Korngold, Zemlinsky / Chailly


Release Date: 10/20/1998 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 460213   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Leos JanácekErich Wolfgang KorngoldAlexander von Zemlinsky
Performer:  Thomas TrotterVladimir BogachovRichard NovákMarta Benacková,   ... 
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic OrchestraSlovak Philharmonic Chorus Bratislava
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The foundations for Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass go down deep into old Slavonia. The churches and cathedrals have not yet been built. The word is with the people, and the people shout to be heard. They shout from the valleys, they shout from the mountain-tops. They’ve been Christian for about a week.

At least, that’s the spirit (and the sound) in which Janacek’s hair-raising setting of the ‘Ordinary of the Mass in Old Church Slavonic’ seeks to inspire us. The key (or one of them) is the chorus, and Chailly’s Slovak Philharmonic Choir – idiomatic to the last cry – gives his impassioned and beautifully recorded account a significant advantage over other recent recordings of the piece. Their declamation, acclamation, exclamation –
Read more for that is the nature of the writing – carries with it an innate understanding, a fervour, a confidence that easily surmounts the difficulties. Having the rhythm of the texts so keenly within the grasp of their experience makes all the difference. There is passion and precision in their singing. And that of the soloists, too. All right, so the soprano Eva Urbanova doesn’t always convey the sheer exultancy of her lines: the colour and cast of her voice is well disposed to the character of the writing, but either she is overparted (which, given the line of repertory she sings in the opera house, is unlikely) or too artful. I don’t feel we’re hearing the full measure, the full reach of her voice. Not so Vladimir Bogachev whose Slavic Otello of a voice scythes into the Slava (Gloria) as if true belief were a demand, an offer you don’t refuse. The mad ‘amens’ which carry us breathlessly toward the Veruju (Credo) protest too much. There is about them an element of delirium – a need-to-know – that is just right.

The repetition of that one word ‘Veruju’ (‘I believe’) takes us to the very heart of the piece, and it is here that Chailly really shines. Each repetition is left hanging like a question. Answers are not forthcoming. Only when the cellos duly find consolation (and how gloriously the Vienna Philharmonic attends that moment) does a lasting faith seem possible. Therein lies Janacek’s metaphor. There’s a great deal of food for agnostic thinking in this piece. As witness the demented organ voluntary in the closing minutes of the piece (Thomas Trotter fingers and pedals up a storm here). The path to glory is anything but straight and narrow.

Which brings me to my one significant reservation about the performance. It has to do with the orchestral sound. Play the wild and wonderful old Czech Philharmonic/Ancerl version, the Kubelik or more recent Mackerras accounts, and Janacek’s startlingly unvarnished colours sound hewn as opposed to honed. Stark, exposed, unlovely. To take but one small detail: the strident clarinet line which so crudely endorses the tenor’s proclamation at the close of the Veruju (10'01''). This and other abrasive sonorities are somewhat compromised by the luxuriant homogeneity of the Vienna Philharmonic. The opening processional, for instance, is surely too majestic, too cultured a sound. This brassy paean has its roots in pagan ritual. Stately it is not. My feeling is anyway that the closing ‘Intrada’ – with its vaulting strings and aerobatic trumpets (no complaints about their brilliance) – should also be heard at the beginning. This was Janacek’s original intention, duly reinstated, along with the rest of his unexpurgated first edition, in the aforementioned Mackerras recording on Chandos. Most startling among its revelations is a central crescendo in the Veruju which thrillingly pits three timpanists against the frantic reports of chorus and organ. A must for listeners seriously curious about Janacek. No question, though, that Chailly and Decca offer a more ‘finished’ product. Play it at healthy volume to maximize impact and bring out those fine resonant bass lines.

And there’s the additional incentive of Chailly’s bonuses. Zemlinsky and Korngold, teacher and pupil – except that Zemlinsky’s is the youthful work and Korngold’s the product of a mature benevolence. In Zemlinsky’s setting of Psalm 83 the fire and brimstone of the words is writ large with determination, Jehovah’s omniscience traditionally acknowledged in a grand fugue. Korngold’s lovely Passover Psalm exudes contentment (and more than a pinch of Hollywood sweetener), his solo violin and soprano sharing possession of the vestal flame.

-- Edward Seckerson, Gramophone 1/1999
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Works on This Recording

1.
Glagolitic Mass by Leos Janácek
Performer:  Thomas Trotter (Organ), Vladimir Bogachov (Tenor), Richard Novák (Bass),
Marta Benacková (Mezzo Soprano), Eva Urbanová (Soprano)
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Slovak Philharmonic Chorus Bratislava
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; Brno, Czech Republic 
Date of Recording: 06/1997 
Venue:  Concert House, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 40 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Language: Slavonic 
2.
Passover Psalm, Op. 30 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Eva Urbanová (Soprano)
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Slovak Philharmonic Chorus Bratislava
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1997 
Venue:  Concert House, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 8 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Language: German 
3.
Psalm 83 by Alexander von Zemlinsky
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Slovak Philharmonic Chorus Bratislava
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1900; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/1997 
Venue:  Concert House, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 12 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Language: German 

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