At the centre of this engaging disc is a fresh and vibrant account of Janáček’s famous Glagolitic Mass, so named because the old church Slavonic text is written in Glagolitic characters, a precursor of Cyrillic script. This new recording enhances all the reasons why this work has remained a firm favourite with audiences since its premiere in 1927. The broad and colourful orchestral canvas (including a major part for organ) is vividly conveyed by the super audio engineering. Edward Gardner and his Bergen forces convincingly project the red-blooded and often emotional response to the text with well drilled orchestral playing and evocative singing by the chorus.
Another major contribution is made by Australian Heldentenor Stuart Skelton who delivers the challenging tenor solos with unflinching confidence and surety. Skelton is well complemented by the attractive voice of American soprano, Sara Jakubiak. Mezzo Susan Bickley and bass Gábor Bretz acquit themselves in the smaller roles with distinction. Thomas Trotter deploys the Rieger organ of Bergen cathedral with finesse, especially in his quasi-Bacchanalian seventh-movement solo.
Filling out the programme are the orchestral Adagio (c.1890), the Zdrávas Maria (Ave Maria) from 1904 and Otče náš (Our Father) from 1901, revised five years later. These earlier pieces confirm Janáček’s gifts as a harmonic and instrumental colourist. Given Janáček’s successes in other fields of musical endeavour, it’s easy to forget he was also an influential church musician. The Zdrávas Maria for soprano, chorus, violin and organ is an atmospheric setting of the text, displaying fervour and delicacy in equal measure. Full of charm, Otče náš for tenor, chorus, harp and organ was designed to accompany tableaux vivants. Following in the footsteps of legendary Australian maestro, Charles Mackerras, Gardner is a great champion of Janáček. More please!