Janácek Glagolitic Mass

Author: 
John Warrack
janacek mass mackerras

JANÁČEK Glagolitic Mass

  • Glagolitic Mass

It is a measure of the respect in which Sir Charles Mackerras is held in Czechoslovakia that this recording should have been possible. The compliment is no less than his due, for no man has done more to win acceptance in this country for Janacek as one of the great composers of the twentieth century. With Simon Rattle now taking his place as the leader of the 'second generation' of Janacek conductors in this country, we are fortunate indeed.
Choosing between their two recordings of the superb Glagolitic Mass is not simple. For Rattle, it must be said that HMV can still produce recordings that are technically superior to those coming out of the Supraphon studios, though the gap is fast being closed. More importantly, Rattle's performances of Janacek, to which this is no exception, have an exultation, a passion and a clarity which would surely have delighted the composer. There is never anything soft-edged about his playing (as there is, for all its warmth, in the performance under Kempe on Decca). Between their sopranos, there is not such a crucial choice, though all the immensely sympathetic qualities of Felicity Palmer's voice, I prefer here Elisabeth Soderstrom, who has now given so many magnificent Janacek performances in company with Sir Charles. John Mitchinson's performance for Rattle does not really compare with Frantisek Livora's: not only is he set rather far back, but there is an authentic Czech cut and thrust to the singing in Livora's performance, not to mention an ease with the language, which makes more of the impassioned Creed (''Veruju''). Sir Charles's chorus naturally also have the style in their bones, and it shows. These advantages may well seem crucial. For myself, I can only be grateful that two British conductors can give us such superlative performances of a work once found remote and specialist; and I am sure the Czechs feel the same.'

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