Stanisław Moniuszko is best known as the founding father
of Polish national opera. In addition to writing operas he also
completed seven masses and numerous other liturgical pieces. The
three masses on this disc are his final three, all completed in
the early 1870s. This was the period of Moniuszko’s creative decline
after the 1863 Warsaw insurrection which had resulted in the loss
of his post as director of productions at the Weikli Theatre.
The Latin Mass
of 1870 exists in two versions: one for chorus, soli, strings
and organ and the other with just organ accompaniment. It
is this latter which is performed here. The other two masses
- the Requiem mass of 1871 and the Polish mass of 1872 - exist
only in versions with organ accompaniment. The Requiem mass
sets a Latin text but St. Peter’s mass sets Polish words which
the CD booklet describe as being by the Polish poet Justyn
Wojewodzki. Judging by the track titles, the Polish mass adopts
the ordinary of the mass with the addition of a gradual and
an offertory. In fact all three masses add the gradual and
offertory to the standard mass sections but the lack of any
texts means that I am unclear as to what the particular gradual
and offertory texts are.
appear to have been written for church usage. They are charming,
melodic and not without interest, but compared to Brahms’s
sacred music, that of Moniuszko belongs to an earlier age.
Perhaps it is significant that Brahms admired the sacred music
of Bach and his pieces reflect this complexity. There’s every
appearance that Moniuszko on the other hand was content to
write lyrical and predominantly homophonic music, with the
organ acting simply as discreet support. Interest comes from
the use of solo voices, either singly or as an ensemble, and
the attractive nature of Moniuszko’s melodic voice.
The choir here
sings with an attractive, clear, bright sound and they are
supported by four soloists with fine lyric voices. None of
the soloists is overstretched by the music, and all shape
Moniuszko’s melodies in a natural and attractive manner.
The CD booklet
contains an introduction to the music and artists biographies
in English, but no texts.
These masses are
ideal material for good church choirs and if this disc does
anything, it deserves to generate interest in liturgical performances
of Moniuszko’s music. That said, despite charming performances,
I don’t really find enough interest in these masses to warrant
returning to them very often.