Otcenás - Leos Janácek (1854 - 1928)

The religious music of the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia and, before that, Bohemia) has always been unique, sandwiched as the country is between Catholic southern Germany and the Orthodox countries of the East. The Hapsburg dominance of the country in the 18th century combined with 19th-century nationalism to produce an anti-German and anti-Catholic feeling; in short, 19th-century Czech culture was based on a kind of modern reformation myth. The best-known Czech composer is Antonín Dvorák, whose output of religious music was prodigious.
His disciple and countryman, Leos Janácek is more famous for his operas and orchestral works, although he wrote two religious pieces of note: the barbarically stirring Glagolitic Mass and the more sensitive setting of the Lord's Prayer, Otcenás, written in 1906. The work is in six short but contrasting movements and is scored for organ, harp, chorus and tenor solo. In three of the movements, the cantabile solo voice alternates with chorus against a background of continuous harmonic modulation; in the three other movements ('Our Father', 'give us this day our daily bread' and 'lead us not into temptation'), the whole choir presents the dominant messages; in the second, seemingly demanding not the consecrated bread of the altar, but the daily bread of true humanity.

 Barry Creasy


Collegium Musicum of London


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