Zoltán Kodály – Missa brevis & Laudes organi
Leoš Janaček – Mass in E flat major
Andrew Reid, organ
The Choir of Westminster Cathedral
James O’Donnell, condcutor
This recording collects three wonderful sacred works: Missa brevis and Laudes organi written by the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály and the Mass in E flat major by Leoš Janáček.
Missa brevis was composed in 1944, during the Second World War, in the convent of Budapest where Kodály had sought refuge, using the existing materials of an unfinished Mass for organ dated 1942. The first execution was in 1948, at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester. The Laudes organi, composed from a medieval text, belong to a later period of Kodály’s production, and were commissioned by the Atlanta Chapter for the National Convention of the American Guild of Organists in 1966. They are counted among the most important of Kodály’s late compositions.
Less famous but certainly interesting is Janáček’s Mass in E flat major (1908), written for educational purposes (it had to be a model for his students) and precedent of the more famous Glagolitic Mass. The Mass in E flat major was never completed and here it is proposed in the most recent reconstruction, edited by Paul Wingfield.
The performance of the Choir of Westminster Cathedral directed by James O’Donnell is simply splendid: despite Kodály’s merciless writing in Missa brevis, the choir is impressive and infuses warmth in a rarefied and yet intense music, while in Laudes organi portrays with refinement the soft and almost intimate atmosphere that characterizes the whole piece. In Janáček’s Mass in E major, it shows instead a different approach, more energetic and resolute.
Andrew Reid plays the organ wonderfully and has a chance to shine in Introitus and Ite, Missa est, ideally surrounding Missa brevis, and in Laudes organi, where he plays a part significantly wider.