Classical reviews

Janacek: Glagolitic Mass, Sinfonietta.
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. Naxos CD.

Antoni Wit conducts two outstanding late works by the Czech composer. Glagolitic refers to the script of the 9th-century Old Church Slavonic text, and the dramatic Mass, with four capable Polish vocal soloists, is an ecstatic mix of rapturous melodies, quiet introspection and expressions of thunderous, triumphant Czech nationalism or pan-Slavism ideals. Organist Jaroslaw Malanowicz plays the virtuosic Postludium, one of its eight sections.

Sinfonietta is relatively brief but employs a huge, spectacular orchestra for its five parts, which respond to Czech buildings Janacek knew. It has a reinforced and brilliant brass section to revel in the fanfare roles.

Radiant, polished performances do justice to these impressive masterworks of Leos Janacek (1854-1928.)

Highlight: Credo, most complex movement in Mass.

Shostakovich: New Babylon.
Basel Sinfonietta (Mark Fitz-Gerald.) Naxos 2CDs.

This is a world premiere recording of the complete score of a classic film about Franco-Prussian events of the 1870s. The original 1929 music manuscript was "lost" for a time, and this is the first disc to use five solo string players only, as conceived by the 22-year-old composer.

The remarkably inventive collage of marches, can-cans, carnival music and witty quotations is symphonic in style yet written only for a chamber-sized orchestra. These two CDs foreshadow some bare bones of the later symphonies, and what rattling good bones they are! They bristle with melodies manipulated with brassy ebullience and occasional modern dissonances. All sorts of influences can be detected in the fine recorded sound and the accompanying booklet gives an excellent commentary.

Highlights: wild, satirical contrasts and counterpoint.


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