thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded
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Petr FIALA (b.1943)
Marian Mass (1962) [15:06]
Czech Christmas Mass (1966) [14:14]
Maria, Mystical Rose (1962-2012) [24:24]
Marie Vrbová (alto): Hana Škarková (soprano): Bohuslava Jalínkova (mezzo soprano): Lucie Strejcová (mezzo soprano): Magdalena Řezáčová (mezzo soprano): Michaela Salačová (mezzo soprano): Martin Javorský (tenor): Vítězslav Šlahař (baritone): Vladimír Krátký (reciter): Kateřina Pilerová (flute): Magdalena Graffová (violin): Klára Hegnerová (viola)
Jitro Children’s Choir/Brno St Augustine’s Girls’ Choir/Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno/Petr Fiala
rec. 2016, Litomyšl and Brno
Czech texts, no translations ARCO DIVA UP 01752-131 [53:56]
When I last reviewed music by Petr Fiala I noted his accomplishments as a choral director, in which capacity he has recorded widely. He is the founder of the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno as well as its director and choir master and the Moravian-born composer now has a ripe portfolio of some 180 works to his name as well as a busy career as a conductor. He conducts this and other Brno choirs once again in an album dedicated to his early sacred music.
The Czech Christmas Mass was written in 1966. It sets texts from the Christmas liturgy by Jaromír Hladík and Jan Jakub Ryba and was written when the composer was in the last years of studies at the Brno Conservatory. Cast for soloists, reciter, mixed chorus, chamber orchestra and organ, Fiala notes that the work is intended for performance by church choirs, on suitable festive occasions but that, like all the music in this disc, performance by amateur choirs in liturgy as well as in concert is also possible, even desirable. Fiala’s idiom is almost preternaturally sweet-voiced and cast in the manner of small-scaled nineteenth-century Czech practice. The writing is lissom and genial and hearkens back to Dvořák. Solos and duets are concise, not technically too demanding, fitting speech patterns with practiced accomplishment. The role for the tenor soloist in the penultimate movement - no movement much exceeds three minutes in length - is both dulcet and pliant.
Indeed, dulcet and pliant are watchwords for the whole disc. The earlier Marian Mass was written for the more modest forces of female choir and organ. The libretto was assembled by Fiala’s aunt, a Franciscan nun, and is really designed more for church than concert use. This lulling work makes no great demands on its forces, but its delicate purity is immediately attractive, its lullaby-like sensitivity equally so. The organ’s role is supportive and only briefly flares into jubilatory extroversion. In a work in which the average movement duration is ninety seconds, nothing outstays its welcome too far. The final piece is Maria, Mystical Rose, selected songs from Fiala’s oratorios on Marian themes. Most of the texts are by one of his favourite poets, Zuzana Renčová-Nováková, the music spanning the period of the fifty years between 1962 and 2012. This set is clearly more stylistically various than the companion works but equally lyrical and generous. The first of the eleven is a beautiful little Romance with an appealing role for solo violin and this is followed by a jauntily phrased piece strongly featuring the flute. The third piece has the aura of a pop song and so on. The singers are all thoroughly versed in Fiala’s less-is-more aesthetic and none, thankfully, inflates their line beyond natural bounds.
There are Czech texts but no translations in this release, which may be a hindrance, though there are no musical ambiguities or complexities to be encountered in this naturally recorded and charming disc.
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