Andrea Lamoreaux, writing the booklet notes for this recording, says: "It is surprising that this exquisite Mass is not better known and more frequently performed. Indeed, that none of Voríšek’s music has yet entered the standard repertory ranks as one of classical music’s most glaring oversights." Judging by the excellence of the music presented on this album, splendidly performed by the Czech orchestra and choir, together with the American conductor and soloists, she certainly has a point.
Jan Václav Hugo Voríšek (1791-1825) was born in a village in northeastern Bohemia and after preliminary musical tuition by his father studied law at the University of Prague. Musical ambition soon won out though. Prague in the second decade of the 19th century worshiped Mozart, yet, although Voríšek was by no means averse to that composer, he was nevertheless seduced by the lure of Vienna where he was more inspired by the dramatically innovative works of Beethoven. Beethoven liked some of Voríšek’s piano pieces but it was the contact that Voríšek made with Franz Schubert that was to be the most far-reaching. Tragically, Voríšek died of tuberculosis before he was 35.
I can discover no other available recording of Voríšek’s beautiful Mass in B . It is reminiscent of Schubert’s sacred works but it has definite originality even though it is fashioned within the conservative traditions of liturgical music that doubtless were enforced by the establishment of the time. The glorious melodies make this Mass an irresistible musical experience - one that the performers clearly enjoy. The Kyrie’s supplications are predominantly humble and gentle, the Gloria and Sanctus exultant and majestic. One of the many highlights is the lovely duet for two violas that introduces the Agnus Dei.
Voríšek’s Symphony in D Major is influenced by Schubert and Beethoven but there are also echoes of Mozart and Haydn. Like the Mass, it is attractively melodic. The Andante’s plaintive, almost tragic beauty and the bubbly, bouncy scherzo are most indicative of the composer’s originality. The rival recording by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras (coupled with Arriaga’s Symphony in D) on Hyperion CDA66800 tends to accentuate the Schubertian influence that little more and the horns are that more secure, while Freeman’s reading has more Beethovenian thrust and drama and, of course, there is a greater Czech feel about its execution.
An album to savour.