Janacek and Kodaly: Masses
(Westminster Cathedral Choir; James O'Donnell, conductor)
Here you will find a fascinating pairing of church music by two very different masters from the early 20th century. Along with a solemnly turned performance of Kodaly's Missa Brevis for organ and boys' choir is the dramatic Mass setting by Janacek. For those who are belatedly discovering his marvelous trove of operas--one of the great achievements of the lyric stage on the last century--this will be especially appealing.
Janácek: Glagolitic Mass; Kodály: Psalmus
(Copenhagen Boys Choir, Danish National Radio Choir, et al; Sir Charles Mackerras, conductor)
Sir Charles Mackerras has gone back to Janácek's original manuscripts and reinstated the music that was cut and rewritten after the piece's premiere on account of its (then considered) technical difficulty or impracticality. The result isn't all that different from the work we all know and love, other than a more extended and crazier setting of the Crucifixion sequence in the Credo. In this and all other respects, this excellent performance can be firmly recommended. Mackerras is the Janácek expert of our age, and all of his performances practically come with a guarantee of absolute musical integrity. This one is no exception, and the Kodály coupling is both apt and appealing. (review by David Hurwitz)
(John Dalley, David Soyer, et al; Guarneri String Quartet
Janácek's quartets are quite unlike most others written in the 20th century. The utter originality of his mature style (tiny rhythmic and melodic fragments not so much linked as placed side by side) combined with the strange figurations he presents the players make for unique listening. At first the province of Czech quartets, they have gradually become popular everywhere--players seem to enjoy the challenge they present. The Guarneri is the latest world-famous quartet to record them and offers memorable performances. The music is treated as if it were totally mainstream; the fragments are somehow joined into arching, expressive melodic lines, and the odd figurations transformed into reasonable facsimiles of accompaniments. This beauty comes at a price; when was the last time you were offered 41 minutes of music on a premium CD? (review by Paul Turok)