The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
For their latest release, the Grammy-Nominated, ECHO Award-winning
Danish National Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Marcus Creed
have selected a program showcasing the works of two 20th century
masters: Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů.
The centerpiece of this album is Martin’s towering masterwork, the Mass for
Double Choir. Originally completed in 1926, Martin did not allow the work to
be performed until 1963. After its premiere he explained: ‘I felt that a personal
expression of religious belief should remain secret and hidden from public
opinion.’ Thankfully Martin decided to share his secret; his Mass has become
one of the 20th century’s most powerful works composed for a cappella choir.
Beyond the similarity of their surnames there is little in common between
the two men. For Swiss-born Martin, his musical breakthrough came early
in life when he heard a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. His
musical language draws on a wide variety of influences, including Renaissance
polyphony, Hindemithian extended tonality and traces of Schoenberg’s
twelve-tone system, but above all, Bach. In contrast, the urbane, cosmopolitan
Martinů was a stylistic butterfly, and a bit of a late bloomer. One can easily
hear traces of impressionism and Stravinskian neoclassicism throughout his
mature style, but in his finest moments, Martinů embraces the love of folklore
that inspired his elder countryman, Leoš Janáček.