19. října  2018 v 07:56  rubrika: Title - Classical

Czech Christmas Mass / chamber version - J. J. Ryba (ed. V. Spurný)

Česká mše vánoční / komorní verze - J. J. Ryba (ed. V. Spurný) - Foto: Nakladatelství ČRo

Česká mše vánoční / komorní verze - J. J. Ryba (ed. V. Spurný)Foto: Nakladatelství ČRo

The Czech Christmas Mass was not Ryba’s first complete liturgical work in the Czech language but it is his most famous composition.

In spite of the repressions and forced restrictions of church life during communist times, the composition became the emblem of Czech Christmas – not just in churches but also on concert stages and in audio recordings. Back in the eighteenth century, Ryba does not seem to have been aware of the exceptional popularity of his Christmas mass. Except for a note in his own listing of compositions composed between 1782 to 1789 — “seven pastoral masses, one of them Czech”—he does not comment upon the composition in his diaries. Thus we know very little about its origins or any contemporary performances of the work. 

The mass is divided into sections that by virtue of their names associate with the traditional names of the Ordinarium parts of a mass. However, the text of an Ordinary is not cited (except for unimportant exceptions) and it is possible the author thought that this part would be used separately. Therefore, although he used the names Ad Kyrie, Ad Gloria and so on, the text of Ryba’s composition does not relate to any specific traditional liturgical text but rather to a series of tableaux of nativity scenes. The music consciously relates to the expressive character of Czech pastorales. Ryba as an experienced composer did not hesitate to use almost any operatic means available – arias, ariosos, ensembles and choirs exchange roles in a diverse array of sequences, the pastoral intonation of folk music is superseded by Mozartian traces of the approaching Romanticism. No wonder then, that the mass was being copied and circulated among Czech choirs upon its immediate release, and — as time passed — changes were made to the text, instrumentation, melody, harmony and the original division of soloists and choir.  

The chamber arrangement is based on the edition of the score published by Czech Radio in 2014. This publication is based on the oldest surviving copy which (according to us) preserves the Czech Christmas mass in its purest and most impressive form. The most important change to the original is the transposition a whole tone lower of the Ad Kyrie, Ad Gloria, Ad Credo, Ad Offertorium, Ad Sanctus and Ad Benedictus sections so that the mass may be more approachable for amateur ensembles. We took into account the historical shift of tuning and concert pitch and the fact that the same transposition may already be found in some manuscripts. 

By publishing the chamber arrangement, we would like to make this composition available to small or village choirs that do not have the large apparatus that the orchestral version requires. When writing this arrangement, I was guided mainly by the instrumental part of Czech pastorales by provincial composers; similar instruments can be found in pastoral compositions of Jan Michalička, Jiří Ignác Linka, Martin Broulík, Jan Kypta, Antonín Laube and even Jakub Jan Ryba.  

The aim was to preserve the musical substance of Ryba’s mass without too many changes in voices-leading and instruments stylization. Unlike in the original, some parts are transformed to another instrument or another octave or are performed on organ. It should be possible to play the organ part even on a smaller instrument with limited registers. Double bass underlines the bass line of the mass and French horns add to the genuine Christmas atmosphere. However, both double bass and French horns can be left out. The violin part can be played by one or two violinists; however, many manuscripts of Czech pastorales prove that the solo of two violins with simultaneous flute and French horn was not unusual.  

The vocal part of the mess remained untouched in this arrangement; however, due to chamber arrangement it can be reduced to a small choir or a solo vocal quartet. 

Other compositions by Jakub Jan Ryba published in Czech Radio:
Czech Christmas Mass
Czech Christmas Mass (parts)
Czech Christmas Mass / piano score
Stabat mater 

instrumentationSATB, coro misto, fl, cor I (ad lib.), cor II (ad lib.), vni I, vni II, basso ad lib., org
descriptionscore, part
publ.NoR 400
price1100,- CZK

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