JANACEK: Glagolitic Mass – Soloists/Evard Grieg & Bergen Cath.Choir – Chandos

JANACEK: Glagolitic Mass – Sara Jakubiak (sop.)/ Susan Bickley (mezzo)/ Stuart Skelton (tenor)/ Gábor Bretz (bass)/ Thomas Trotter (organ)/ Edward Gardner cond. Bergen Philharmonic Orch./ Bergen Philharmonic Choir & Choir of Collegiûm Mûsicûm; Adagio for Orch. – Bergen Philharmonic Orch./ Zdravas Maria, – Sara Jakubiak (sop.)/ David Stewart (violin)/ Karstein Askeland (organ)/ Edvard Grieg Chorus & Bergen Cathedral Choir; Otcenáš (Our Father) for four-part choir, tenor soloist, organ and harp – Stuart Skelton (tenor)/ Johannes Wik (harp)/ Karstein Askeland (organ)/
Edvard Grieg Choir & Bergen Cathedral Choir – Chandos multichannel SACD CHSA 5165 TT: 64:30 (3/25/16) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

A superb recording and performance of Janacek’s epic Mass.

I’ve always had an affinity for Janacek’s music, and his Sinfonietta is a piece I listen to at least once every few weeks.

When I first heard the the Glagolitic Mass some years ago, I wasn’t sure what I would hear, but Janacek’s style that I knew so well from the Sinfonietta was clearly there, and most welcome.

The Glagolitic Mass is considered Janacek’s finest non-operatic work. It was premiered a year after the Sinfonietta to critical acclaim. This impressive piece makes full use of the orchestra and chorus, with virtuosic solo parts for tenor and soprano, as well as dramatic organ interludes and accompaniment. I especially was happy to see that this is a multichannel recording, knowing that this epic work would be likely well served by both the higher resolution SACD format and the surround channels.

The disc also features three smaller (I hesitate to say lesser) works, including the Adagio for Orchestra, Zdravas Maria and Octenas (Our Father) for tenor, harp, orchestra and choir. These are little known works by Janacek, but all are worth repeated listens.

In terms of audio quality, this disc is excellent. The organ is deep, the recording venue was highly reflective, and the surrounds open up the recording considerably. The Bergen Philharmonic is precise and exuberant, especially during the Glagolitic Mass.

There’s really nothing to complain about. Superb music, monumental for the Mass, contrasting with the three smaller more personal pieces that are a nice compliment to this production.

This disc from Chandos is the third disc dedicated to new recordings of Janacek’s work, and I’m hoping the series continues. Highly recommended!

—Mel Martin

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