Adamantine Fate

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After much searching, I have found it… The words to Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass is here: MÅ A GLAGOLSKAJA. This saves me typing it out in order to have a handy one pager for practicing. With far too many consonants and a famine of vowels, ancient Czech is a bit of a tongue twister and takes some effort to get used to.

But that is the job at hand! The SSC is performing this November 20th. It’s probably an acquired taste for most, so if you are going to the concert, get a recording first and practice listening – it’s amazing how this can improve one’s enjoyment of music.

The piece has great feeling of space – of mountains and valleys. There’s a lot of folk influence, but the story is told in such a strange musical language that the listener may be dumfounded.

The music has a lot to offer but if the message is religious, it is frightening. The plea for mercy is so desperate that it is as if the choir was expecting a shower of brimstone at any moment.

Perhaps it is not God the composer fears but lonliness. I find the music makes more sense if I don’t think of it as a mass but as a piece about longing and torment – love unrequited. I suppose for a soul tormented, love unrequited has God to blame so it amounts to the same thing. Apparently that was Janacek’s state of mind and in that context, the music has a lot to communicate.


BECAUSE God put His adamantine fate
Between my sullen heart and its desire,
I swore that I would burst the Iron Gate,
Rise up, and curse Him on His throne of fire.
Earth shuddered at my crown of blasphemy,
But Love was as a flame about my feet;
Proud up the Golden Stair I strode; and beat
Thrice on the Gate, and entered with a cry—

All the great courts were quiet in the sun,
And full of vacant echoes: moss had grown
Over the glassy pavement, and begun
To creep within the dusty council-halls.
An idle wind blew round an empty throne
And stirred the heavy curtains on the walls.

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915). CollectedPoems. 1916.