The inspiration for Janáček’s unique Glagolitic Mass was, according to one of his pupils, the dire state of church music in and around his native village of Hukvaldy. The composer himself claimed that the piece was actually inspired by an electrical storm he witnessed while on holiday in Luhačovice. In any case, when he turned back to sacred music in 1921, Janáček would draw upon an old Latin mass setting he had begun in 1908. But now the much older, atheistic, and fiercely patriotic composer eschewed traditional Latin and opted a text in the Old Church Slavonic of ninth-century missionaries; the entire work became evocative of Janáček’s s beloved Moravia and was infused with his broader Slavic preoccupations, as much pagan is it is Catholic.

Here the Mass is paired on a double-CD with Janáček’s rhapsody for orchestra, Taras Bulba, his uplifting Sinfonietta and his 1917 ballad for solo violin and orchestra, The Fiddler’s Child. The latter was commissioned in 1912 by the Czech Philharmonic, which performs orchestral duties on this excellent release under the late Jiří Bělohlávek.

The performances on the Mass are rich and expansive, while the Sinfonietta in particular is a joy. Splendid recordings do justice to a Czech Philharmonic in fine form, producing a fitting memorial to the remarkable life of Bělohlávek, who was one of the world’s most vocal proponents of Czech music before his passing in 2017.

Composer: Janáček
Composition: Glagolitic MassTaras BulbaSinfonietta
Performer: Czech Philharmonic/Bělohlávek
Catalogue Number: Decca 4834080