In 1886, a Czech patron of the arts named Josef Hlavka had a new chapel built at his summer residence at Luzany in Western Bohemia, and asked his composer friend Antonin Dvořák to write a mass to dedicate it.
As a devout Catholic, Dvořák was happy to oblige. Since the Luzany chapel was quite small, Dvořák wrote his "Mass in D Major" for a quartet of soloists, a small choir, and organ, and led the premiere performance at the chapel on today's date in 1887, with his wife Anna singing one of the solo roles.
Dvořák told Hlavaka that he was grateful for the chance to write so intimate a piece. "For until now," wrote Dvořák, "I had only written sacred works of larger proportions with considerable vocal and instrumental means at my disposal."
In fact, Dvořák's international reputation had been made based on large-scale choral works like his "Stabat Mater," which was performed to great acclaim in London's immense Royal Albert Hall some ten years earlier.
Ironically, Dvořák's intimate "Luzany Mass" became popular as just such a large-scale work. At the request of his publisher, Dvořák orchestrated his "Mass," and in that form it received its international premiere in 1893 at the immense Crystal Palace in London, performed by a huge chorus and a large symphony orchestra.
The published orchestrated version became extremely popular during Dvořák's lifetime, but his small-scale original version was not even published until 1963.
Music Played in Today's Program
Antonin Dvořák (1841 - 1904)Mass in DChrist Church Cathedral Choir;Nicholas Cleobury, o;Simon Preston, cond.London/Decca 448 089-2