Janáček in the raw – ‘dishevelled and prickly’, just as he intended

Janáček in the raw – ‘dishevelled and prickly’, just as he intended


norman lebrecht

September 29, 2014

There’s a new recording out of the Glagolitic Mass. It follows the composer’s final score of September 1927, before it got cleaned up by the maestro profession for civilised performance. This is Janáček’s godless Mass as he wanted it to sound, led by a conductor who likes it prickly.

And effervescent.

It’s my Album of the Week on sinfinimusic.com. Click here to read more.




  • Jerry says:

    It would be interesting to know how, or if, this September 1927 draft version differs
    from the ‘original’ version ‘reconstructed’ by Paul Wingfield for Sir Charles Mackerras’
    1994 recording on Chandos CHAN 9310.

  • cabbagejuice says:

    “Godless Mass”, says WHO?
    For convenience sake, here is part of the Wiki entry: The Glagolitic Mass (Czech: Glagolská mše or Mša glagolskaja) (also called Missa Glagolitica or Slavonic Mass) is a composition for soloists (soprano, contralto, tenor, bass), double chorus, organ and orchestra by Leoš Janáček. The work was completed on 15 October 1926 and premiered by the Brno Arts Society, conducted by Jaroslav Kvapil, in Brno on 5 December 1927…The Glagolitic Alphabet was an early Slavic alphabet, the predecessor of the modern Cyrillic alphabet.
    The text is in Old Church Slavonic, with five vocal movements that correspond to the Catholic Ordinary of the Mass, omitting “Dona nobis pacem” in the Agnus Dei. The musical origins of the work can be traced to Janáček’s Latin setting of the Kyrie, Agnus Dei, and Credo for organ and chorus…Janáček had extensive experience working with choirs, as well as writing a large amount of choral music, and this work is his finest in the genre. It begins and closes with triumphant fanfares dominated by the brass. In between these sections lies particularly vibrant and rhythmic writing for solo voices as well as choir. Before the closing Intrada, Janáček introduces a dramatic organ solo of considerable originality – a perpetuo moto of wild energy. Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass is considered one of the century’s masterworks and is frequently performed and recorded today. Janáček was a strong supporter of pan-Slavism, and this Mass has been viewed as a celebration of Slavic culture.


    My problem is the organ solo. Nearly all the recorded Youtube performances and previous editions play this movement at Plenum ++ all at the same prestissimo tempo.

    It is well known that Janacek was prone to marked and unexpected contrasts in his compositions. The latest edition from Austria indicates tempi changes and in particular, sections on 4′ stops alone. There is a section on the second last page that is particularly marked rit (bar 107) of which no player seems to take notice.

    Played at 200 metronome mark and ffff all the way through sounds unmusical, unJanacek and horrible to me