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A very distinctive work - before I heard it I assumed that despite the title it would sound kind of similar to usual Central European orchestral RC mass settings but I was very wrong. It's a sacred work but I always feel there's something primal, almost pagan-sounding about the music.
 

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I'm not much of a believer -- but neither was Janacek. It's still a terrific piece of music.
I'm not at all 'a believer.' It is a terrific piece. It seems some of the best religious music was written by composers who did not much or at all subscribe to any kind of spiritual dogma -- they may have been spiritual, but 'non-believers' since you put it that way.
 

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Following the first performance of the Glagolitic Mass, critic Ludvik Kundera wrote "Janacek, an old man, now a firm believer, feels with increasing urgency that his life's work should not lack an element expressing his relationship to God". Janacek (who was 73) fired back a postcard saying "No old man, no believer!" He subsequently said "In it I wanted to portray faith in the certainty of the nation, not on a religious basis, but on a strong moral foundation which calls God as a witness".
Janacek had also said he wanted to write a work "Without the gloom of medieval monastery cells in its motives, without the sound of the usual imitative procedures, without the sound of Bachian fugal tangles, without the sound of Beethovenian pathos, without Haydn's playfulness".
(quotes taken from sleeve notes by Michael Stegemann for a 1995 reissue of Bernstein's recording on Sony)

Another nonbeliever here who thinks it's a marvellous piece of music.
 
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I have a recording by Ancerl on Supraphon, that I listen to from time to time, but have yet to connect with it as I have with other masses. Still, a generally good work.
 

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haha it is kind of a weird work, isn't it? I absolutely love the Glagolitic Mass, in all its quirkiness. And yes, I recognize that Janacek himself was not a believer, and I am, but that doesn't really change my view of the work. I don't know if I've really felt inspired by it the way I do by Faure and Durufle's requiem or Poulenc's Gloria, but it is a beautiful and powerful religious work. The part that stands out to me as the most "inspired" is the "Svet" section, when the chorus cries "Plna sut nebozem nja, slavy tvojeje!" - love that. :)
 

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Good opportunity to listen to the Mass not from my DGG Kubelick w/Bavarian Radio Symphony, but this:

Bird Amber Orange Font Material property


Bretislav Bakala conducting the Brno Radio Symphony, Moravian Academic Singing Association,
& Vach Moravian Lady Teacher's Choir
recorded in 1951

The sound is perfectly fine, loud. This is an affordable, must-have box for the Janacekian.

Intro: Starts majestic, like Sinfonietta, then goes into contorted, recursive sound shapes. Can't help thinking of Gothic architecture & art, the nick-whittling slashes of woodcuts and rough-hewn statues.

Kyrie: Warmth, food & shelter after cold travel, but in a very unfamiliar society.

Gloria: Tense, angular modernist strings. This is music from a church could draw me. Services that make you nervous without making you feel damned.

Credo: A sound-feeling of mortal hazard abruptly gives way to the supple ease of a well-fed healthy body.
Example: watch the birds in the woods: as paranoid as a ninja one moment, next as seemingly at home in the world as if they had drink in hand, about to tell a good story.
This is a Janacek trope, a distillation or precipitate of the entire ceaseless movement of nature, as in a mandala.
(The Cunning Little Vixen is all this.)
Then some insistent pipe organ. The singers stack up the articles of faith in an intricate pile. Like cathedrals with such complex sculptural articulation they suck shadows into their depths, like a mousetrap for the devil.

Sanctus: Begins as a peaceful drifting anthem of the saved soul & the satisfied mind. Then it turns nervous again. The eternal problem is to be up for facing the energy of life, battering you like a ship in a storm.

Agnus Dei: This sounds like being called in to give a statement to the police.

Postludium (after game?): What do you mean? Who doesn't like pipe organ music?

Intrada: Back to the big heraldic Sinfonietta trumpeting of men pretending to be angels (great job!)
 

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My favourite Mass. I got how to talk to God in it. I wonder what believers think of it... How do you like it, guys?
I see it as less about God and more about the beauty of nature. There's a theory that he wrote it for his muse and confidant Kamila Stosslova, it was like music for their wedding in his imagination.

It was among the first works I heard by Janacek, and I am a strong fan of him now. Another gateway piece was his string quartets. His music has a monumentality and directness without a sense though of being forced or pretentious. Maybe a bit like his contemporary Sibelius, though of course stylistically different.

Its also interesting that Janacek avoided Germanic models here, the obvious one being J.S. Bach or Beethoven. He wanted to get away from them as much as possible. This contrasts with Czechs of an earlier generation, Dvorak and Smetana, who built Czech music pretty much on Germanic roots (influenced by Brahms, Wagner and Liszt - the latter not German but still heavily influenced and informed by that tradition).

I think though that a lot of things have some spiritual element, but it doesn't have to be about institutionalised religion. Or in this case, any religion. Best example of that is Verdi's Requiem, and I think he too was a non-believer. We all connect with nature and this work brings that out. So too a sense of optimism, which the work conveys strongly.
 

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I love Glagolitic Mass. I try to listen to it at least once every two months or so. My favorite performance is MTT's with the LSO on Sony. It doesn't get much better than this for me. MTT may also seem an 'unconventional' choice but he really brought to the work precision, clarity, and just enough wild abandon to keep things interesting.
 
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I love the pipe organ, and there's no shrieking. I have the Ancerl recording which is 55 years old, but I just crank it up and go! It's a wild and strange piece, and that's why I love it. It's a performance piece for the concert hall in celebration of faith in a nation and it's people, not in religion.
 

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I see that nobody has commented about their being multiple versions of the mass. Until about 25 years ago everyone played the slightly revised and simplified 1927/28 version ('standard' version) which came about for various reasons including that the performers found the original version to be too difficult. Since then there have been two updated versions which go back towards Janacek's original intent. There are numerous differences, particularly in metre (e.g. 'Gospodi Pomiluj' which is in 4 on the so-called standard version and 5 in the original). There are also cuts including a notable one in 'Veruju' which was very disconcerting the first time that I heard it! One other difference about which there is some argument is with the Intrada. The standard version only has it at the end but Janacek's original notes show it as also being played at the very beginning. One revised (un-revised?!) version (e.g. the 1994 Mackerras/Chandos) includes the initial Intrada, another (e.g. the recent Netopil recording) does not. Whatever you believe (and remember that Janacek died in 1928 so was unable to give further consideration to the score), if you are only familiar with the standard version, you owe it to yourself to hear something closer to Janacek's original intent.
 

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The version on Arco Diva is a bit more refined. Not as wild as Ancerl, and it's paired with the beautiful Eternal Gospel. I like both.
 

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I see that nobody has commented about their being multiple versions of the mass. Until about 25 years ago everyone played the slightly revised and simplified 1927/28 version ('standard' version) which came about for various reasons including that the performers found the original version to be too difficult. Since then there have been two updated versions which go back towards Janacek's original intent. There are numerous differences, particularly in metre (e.g. 'Gospodi Pomiluj' which is in 4 on the so-called standard version and 5 in the original). There are also cuts including a notable one in 'Veruju' which was very disconcerting the first time that I heard it! One other difference about which there is some argument is with the Intrada. The standard version only has it at the end but Janacek's original notes show it as also being played at the very beginning. One revised (un-revised?!) version (e.g. the 1994 Mackerras/Chandos) includes the initial Intrada, another (e.g. the recent Netopil recording) does not. Whatever you believe (and remember that Janacek died in 1928 so was unable to give further consideration to the score), if you are only familiar with the standard version, you owe it to yourself to hear something closer to Janacek's original intent.
All the different versions are fascinating, but the standard one is for me the tautest and most satisfying. Framing with the Intrada doesn't quite feel right! I suppose it's what you first and most regularly heard that works best!! The alternatives are well worth hearing, of course, especially for the weird and whacky extra passages in the Veruju.

For me the finest version, of many wonderful ones out there, is Mackerras on Supraphon.

Btw did you like the new Netopil recording? I am afraid I found it distinctly underwhelming...
 
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