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Ryba is now remembered, if at all, for two things: the Czech Christmas Mass ‘Česka mše vánoční’, the only one of its kind, and for taking his own life in 1815. But as the teacher and choirmaster at Rožmitál he wrote over 1,500 compositions, sacred and secular, of which only a proportion has survived. The Stabat Mater was a text very close to Ryba’s heart and he set it three times that we know of; this one has never been previously recorded. What makes it stand out – apart from its disturbing orchestral introduction depicting the Crucifixion – is the sheer stylistic diversity of the work, which includes baroque and classical elements, folk materials (in the quartet) and eerie anticipations of high modernism. All of this presents serious challenges to the singers and orchestra, who meet them squarely. This is a remarkable performance, and its rarity adds to its value.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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