- Two Versions of Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass
Not long ago, Janáček was relegated to the ranks of composers who needed editorial help to enable satisfactory performances of their works. It was well known that two of his major operas, Její pastorkyňa (Jenůfa) and Z mrtvého domu (From the House of the Dead), were routinely performed in considerably redacted versions, and that the great Czech conductor, Václav Talich, conducted two mature operas, Kát’a Kabanová and Příhody lišky Bystroušky (The Cunning Little Vixen), in “retouched” versions. A glance at Janáček’s perilously high writing for violins or unreasonably fast trombones would seem to confirm the image of a composer with little sense of what was practical and achievable in orchestral music.
But as performances of his works became more common and players more accustomed to grappling with them, the realization grew that difficulty and risk-taking were part of Janáček’s compositional makeup and that passages which had initially presented problems were, over time, found to be tricky but feasible. Talich later recanted his views, as he confessed to Jaroslav Vogel (“We wanted to help him [Janáček], and he instead crushed us all,” Leoš Janáček, [Prague: Artia, 1981], 387 n.†). Jenůfa, played for over sixty years in Karel Kovařovic’s revision and reorchestration (the only performance material then available), was, with Charles Mackerras’s groundbreaking recording of 1983 (released on compact disc in 1985 [Decca 414 483-2]), at last heard in something like the version that Janáček himself left. It began to be realized that Janáček’s acceptance of Kovařovic’s version for the triumphant Prague premiere of 1916 was a matter of realpolitik rather than conviction. After Kovařovic’s death Janáček roundly denounced the version, but his publishers were in no mood to replace what seemed to them a highly successful edition, and it was another seventy-five years before they published Janáček’s version (the “Brno 1908” edition). Similarly it began to be accepted that the edition of Janáček’s final opera From the House of the Dead that his students concocted after his death arose from a misunderstanding of the spare and dramatically innovative score that Janáček left on his desk: that it was not incomplete (“just a sketch”) or the product of muddled old age but a fully-thought-through creation that reflected Janáček’s increasing desire to pare his music down to a minimum.
In the light of such developments it was perfectly reasonable for the Cambridge musicologist Paul Wingfield to examine the performing materials of a major nonoperatic work, the Glagolská mše (Glagolitic Mass), to see whether the published version reflected Janáček’s intentions. Wingfield’s research turned into a major project resulting in a book (Janáček: Glagolitic Mass, Cambridge Music Handbooks [Cambridge: Cam bridge University Press, 1992]) and a new edition that was taken up by the original publishers, Universal Edition of Vienna, and made available to stand alongside their standard edition. The justification for his edition appears in the published piano-vocal score (most recently reissued in 2010) and in the study score (2009), the latter the source of the following quote: [End Page 534]
The composer was apparently forced to make major revisions during rehearsals for the mass’s premiere (5 December 1927) owing to a lack...