Over the years, the Czech Christmas Mass, “Hej, mistře” (Hail, master!), by Jakub Jan Ryba has become an inherent part of Czech tradition. This is mainly owing to the simplicity, the emotional impact and pure comprehensiveness of Ryba’s music. Ryba wrote his Christmas Mass “Hail, master!” in 1796. Its programmatic sequence basically follows the plot used in the folk Christmas Nativity plays. In a rather unusual treatment of the introductory sections, Ryba demonstrates his ability to create a dramatic increase of tension among the listeners. The angel voices do not announce the birth of the Saviour until the second section of the Mass, the Gloria. In the first section, the Kyrie, the shepherds argue about the possible causes of the natural phenomena observed in the night. In the Graduale and the Credo the shepherds are preparing for their journey to Bethlehem. The Offertory pays homage to the new-born child. The three final sections, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei, are presented as celebratory songs of praise before the cradle, with the choir in the final passage praying for peace on Earth to men of good will. Although in form this work has all the hallmarks of a Mass, the use of text and musical setting make it more like a Christmas cantata. —from the note to the excellent Naxos recording of the Czech Christmas Mass. The text of the Mass can be found at this Naxos link. Below is a video of this recording.

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