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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Friday, September 11

Dvořák's "Luzany" Mass

Synopsis

In 1886, a Czech patron of the arts named Josef Hlavka had a chapel built at his summer residence at Lužany in Bohemia and asked his composer friend Antonin Dvorak to write a mass to dedicate it.

As a devout Catholic, Dvorak was happy to oblige. Since the chapel was quite small, Dvorak wrote his “Mass in D Major” for just a quartet of soloists, a small choir, and organ, and led the premiere performance there on today’s date in 1887, with his wife Anna singing one of the solo roles.

Dvorak told Hlavka he was grateful for the chance to write so intimate a piece. “Until now,” wrote Dvorak, “I had only written sacred works of larger proportions with considerable vocal and instrumental means at my disposal.”

Ironically, Dvorak’s intimate “Lužany Mass” became popular as just such a large-scale work. At the request of his publisher, Dvorak 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 Dvorak’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 D Christ Church Cathedral Choir;Nicholas Cleobury, o;Simon Preston, cond. London/Decca 448 089-2

Additional Information

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