Both of the works on this disk are considered standard choral/orchestral masterpieces, and Charles Mackerras and the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus give a new, nearly wild and gritty, perspective on these great works.
The 22-minute Psalmus Hungaricus by Zoltan Kodaly is an odd miniature choral/orchestral piece. Known for his collection of folk songs in his native country, Kodaly adapted the sounds of his homeland and instituted them into his classical compositions. The result is an exotic Bohemian kind of sound. Scored for orchestra, solo tenor, and chorus, the tenor is center-stage for much of the work. After an orchestral introduction, a cappella chorus members chant in an old orthodox church mode feel, a theme that will reoccur many times, each becoming grander, and in a sense, wilder. The text is an old Slavic version of Psalm 55, an old fire and brimstone reading that is, in the end, about redemption. After the choral chanting, the tenor sings; the part is tough throughout, and here Peter Svensson is wild enough to create an anguished performance. The choir and soloist trade on and off, each time, getting more and more frenzied, until a heavenly orchestral interlude interrupts with harp and strings only, and the outlook becomes sunnier; that is until the chorus erupts with the organ entrance in exultation. The work ends with mystic chanting by the chorus alone, extremely low voiced basses. The work is a huge crescendo of passion and excitement, with haunting orchestrations and colors. An excellent staple in the choral/orchestral literature pool.
The Leos Janacek Glagolitic Mass has always held a special place for me, and an all-time favorite choral/orchestral work of mine. This premier of the original scored version has only fueled my love of the work. In most recordings, the piece suffers from pretentiousness; Mackerras' new version of Janacek's original design gives a wild and unleashed performance of a monumental work. The abundance of unique ideas are on the scale of Verdi's Requiem, with all of the subtlety of Orff's Carmina Burana. Janacek has a new and creative theme and orchestration at every page turn of the score, and it never tires or becomes stale. The form is very much the typical Mass with a few differences. Two introductory orchestral pieces: the first a whirlwind of brash, in your face athleticism; the second, a magisterial procession with trumpet fanfare. The Kyrie is scored for chorus and soprano soloist. The choir opens in chorale style, the soprano, a bit wild I warn you, impassionedly cries Christ have mercy. The Gloria and Credo are filled with so much imaginative and tuneful material, it would take too much to describe. Of note, the haunting recurrence of Veruje, Credo, ties the piece together, a wild solo tenor, and the inclusion of organ gives a powerful statement to the music. The Sanctus and Agnus Dei give all four soloists a chance to sing, a bit more lyrical, Janacek's gift of melody shines through. Before the repeat of the opening orchestral introduction (this time a postlude), an outstanding and virtuosic organ solo brings the work to a rousing conclusion, a whirlwind of pipe organ. A choral masterpiece.
Sir Charles Mackerras and the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus breathe new life into these works. Janacek's original intentions are put into place, not so stuffy, and a bit rougher around the edges. Mackerras chooses his soloists carefully (the parts are difficult), prepares the chorus and orchestra intelligently, and chooses a wild interpretation, given to him in performance. Excellent sonics and performances. The orchestra speaks very well, and exciting soloists (even the rarely heard bass and alto), and the chorus, the most important element, is balanced well enough; all together, make the atmosphere Mackerras asks for. Along with the Kodaly, a breathless CD; highest of recommendations.