Olivier Messiaen, Janacek: Glagolitic Mass – Sinfonietta

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 11.15.11 in Reviews
Two brass-heavy works that make a natural pairing

There are too many Sinfonietta recordings to proclaim any one the best; there are far fewer Glagolitic Mass recordings, and Kubelik’s has long been unsurpassed. But these two brass-heavy works make a natural pairing, so if that’s what you want, you have only a handful of choices. Bakala’s vintage readings sport the pungent timbres of an authentic Czech orchestra, but in dull 60-year-old monophonic sound. Tilson Thomas offers rhythmically incisive and sonically vivid versions, but his Mass is marred by some soloists’ ugly shouting. Inbal brings excellent sound and better soloists to a slightly less incisive reading. Rattle and Dutoit are too unidiomatic. With powerful soloists who don’t press, superb sonics, and impeccable execution by chorus and orchestra, Wit’s the pick if you’re in the market for polished versions that don’t overlook the tender side of these works, featuring an Agnus Dei of nearly Impressionistic beauty and a more multi-faceted Sinfonietta than the norm.