Glagolitic Mass

Glagolská mše
Glagolitic Mass
by Leoš Janáček
Leos Janacek relief.jpg
Relief of the composer
LanguageOld Church Slavonic
Performed5 December 1927 (1927-12-05): Brno
  • SATB double choir and soloists
  • soprano, alto and baritone soloists
  • organ
  • orchestra

The Glagolitic Mass (Czech: Glagolská mše, Church Slavonic: Mša glagolskaja; also called Missa Glagolitica or Slavonic Mass) is a composition for soloists (soprano, contralto, tenor, bass), double chorus, organ and orchestra by Leoš Janáček. The work was completed on 15 October 1926 and premiered by the Brno Arts Society, conducted by Jaroslav Kvapil, in Brno on 5 December 1927. Janáček revised the mass the next year.[1]

The Glagolitic alphabet was an early Slavic alphabet, the predecessor of the modern Cyrillic alphabet.


The text is in Old Church Slavonic, with five vocal movements that correspond to the Catholic Ordinary of the Mass, omitting "Dona nobis pacem" in the Agnus Dei. The musical origins of the work can be traced to Janáček's Latin setting of the Kyrie, Agnus Dei, and Credo for organ and chorus. This was used as a dictation exercise by his composition students in 1908.[2]

Janáček had extensive experience working with choirs, as well as writing a large amount of choral music. It begins and closes with triumphant fanfares dominated by the brass. In between these sections lies particularly vibrant and rhythmic writing for solo voices as well as choir. Before the closing Intrada, Janáček introduces a dramatic organ solo of considerable originality – a perpetuo moto of wild energy.[3] Janáček's Glagolitic Mass is considered an important work of the century and is frequently performed and recorded today.

Janáček was a strong supporter of pan-Slavism,[4] and this mass has been viewed as a celebration of Slavic culture.[3]


Its eight movements are:

  1. Úvod – Introduction (orchestra)
  2. Gospodi pomilujKyrie
  3. SlavaGloria
  4. VĕrujuCredo
  5. SvetSanctus
  6. Agneče BožijAgnus Dei
  7. Varhany sólo (Postludium) – Organ solo
  8. Intrada – Exodus

Although this version is considered the "standard" version performed today, research into Janáček's manuscripts suggests that the Intrada was intended to be played at the beginning of the work as well, creating a symmetric nine-movement form with the Vĕruju at its center. In addition, several other sections of the work were revealed to have been simplified in meter and orchestration. Some of the movements are reworkings of Janáček's earlier compositions: the Svet, for instance, is derived from the Sanctus of the composer's own Mass in E-flat.


The mass is scored for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists, double SATB choir, and an orchestra of 4 flutes (2–4 doubling piccolos), 2 oboes, cor anglais, 3 clarinets (3rd doubling bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (3rd doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, glockenspiel, triangle, snare drum, cymbals, tam-tam, chimes, 2 harps, celesta, organ, and strings (1st & 2nd violins, violas, cellos, and double basses).



  1. Arrangement suitable for: solo soprano, alto, tenor and bass, mixed chorus, organ and orchestra
    • arrangement for: wind orchestra
    • arrangement by: Karel Bělohoubek
    • performed by: Czech Army Central Band, co Karel Bělohoubek
  2. Arrangement suitable for: solo soprano, alto, tenor and bass, mixed chorus, organ and orchestra
    • arrangement for: wind orchestra
    • arrangement by: Josef Šebesta
    • performed by: Prague Castle Guard and Police Wind Orchestra, co Rudolf Rydval
  3. Arrangement suitable for: opera
    • arrangement for: fantasy from the opera for saloon orchestra
    • arrangement by: E. Bauer
    • performed by: Dolfi Dauber Saloon Orchestra, co Dolfi Dauber
  4. Arrangement suitable for: opera
    • arrangement for: orchestral suite from the opera
    • arrangement by: Peter Breiner
    • performed by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, co Peter Breiner

In film

The Glagolitic Mass was used for the music in the 1954 film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome by director Kenneth Anger.[9]

Other composers

There are a few other compositions of this genre in existence. Other composers of a Glagolitic Mass include J. B. Foerster, František Zdeněk Skuherský, Alexander Gretchaninov, the Prague organist Bedřich Antonín Wiedermann, and more recently, in the 1950s by the Czech polymath Jan Křesadlo. These Glagolitic masses were perhaps romantic expressions of so-called pan-Slavism and that of Janáček, an agnostic, may also possibly be so regarded.


  1. ^ Dr. Theodora Strakova, editing board of Critical Edition of the Complete Works of Janacek, Supraphon, Prague, 1992. Mša glagolskaja (Glagolitic Mass), details
  2. ^ Paul Wingfield: Janácek: Glagolitic Mass (Cambridge Music Handbooks), 1992. ISBN 978-0-521-38901-3
  3. ^ a b Steinberg, Michael (2008). Choral masterworks: a listener's guide. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. p. 193.
  4. ^ "Radio Prague – The Glagolitic Mass, a celebration of Slavic culture". Retrieved 2017-06-10.
  5. ^ a b c [Decca Classical 1929-2009 by Philip Stuart]
  6. ^ "Glagolitic Mass (Musical CD, 1985)". [WorldCat.org]. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  7. ^ "Glagolitische Messe Taras Bulba (Musical CD, 1991)". [WorldCat.org]. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  8. ^ "Glagolitic mass Taras Bulba (Musical CD, 1991)". [WorldCat.org]. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  9. ^ Weinel, Jonathan (2018). Inner Sound: Altered States of Consciousness in Electronic Music and Audio-Visual Media. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 136. ISBN 0190671211.

External links

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