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Janácek: Glagolitic Mass
Strauss: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Suite Op. 60

London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra/Klaus Tennstedt
Ameril Gunson, Sheila Armstrong, Robert Tear & William Shimell

Recorded: Royal Festival Hall, London, May 1985/May 1986

BBC Legends - BBCL420

Of the many evocative recordings in the BBC Legends series, this one for me takes the palm for the "tingle factor"; the recreation with uncanny immediacy of the excitement of having been present for that unsurpassably exciting 1985 performance of Janáček's Glagolitic Mass (1927).

This is recording as death-denial! The soloists give their all, and there is a palpable "intensity of expression with extreme dynamics which gave Tennstedt's readings an epic character" (David Patmore). The BBCL format does not give us the words in Old Church Slavonic Glagolitic script, nor the text translation into English; but the Latin Mass is sufficiently familiar that we retain our appreciation of where we are in the Service.

Strauss' Suite makes a perfect foil; witty, delicate and rhythmically alert to every nuance in the delectable score, it re-emerges with vivid presence. Patmore (2007) tells us that whilst the play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme with Strauss's incidental music did not establish itself as the intended prologue to Ariadne auf Naxos, the Suite has held its place in the concert hall since 1920. But is he not already out of date? Fashions change, and I have not encountered it for many a year. Concerts have become shorter, and overtures as starters are relatively infrequent to their regularity in symphony concerts of my youth.

I was born in the same year that the Glagolitic Mass was composed. We old-timers (likely purchasers of these recordings) like to be reminded of artists we admired in times past. Half of P.5 of the booklet is empty; it would have been good to have included amongst the credits those to the original BBC engineers for the excellent sound balance, and to have had some of the instrumental soloists named, especially the organist (Janacek) and the pianist (Strauss).

Peter Grahame Woolf