> KILAR Exodus etc.8.554788 [CT]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Wojciech KILAR (b.1932)
Krzesany (1974)
Angelus (1984)
Exodus (1981)
Victoria (1983
Hasmik Papian-Soprano
Cracow Philharmonic Chorus
Jaček Mentel, Chorus Master
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (Katowice)
Antoni Wit
Recorded at the Grzegorz Fitelberg Concert Hall, Katowice, January 1994
Naxos 8.554788 DDD [65:11]


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Arguably, Wojciech Kilarís greatest successes have been in the field of film music, notably his score for Francis Ford Coppolaís movie Bram Stokerís Dracula. Yet his early career saw him very much at the heart of the Polish avant-garde school, alongside his close contemporaries Penderecki and Górecki. Like his contemporaries he presented his early avant-garde works at the first Warsaw Autumn Festival, also attending the Darmstadt Summer School in 1957 and studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Again, like his contemporaries, his works from the 1970ís onwards have rejected atonality, concerning themselves with a newfound simplicity and directness of expression.

Where his work has perhaps always differed from his colleagues is in his fascination for Polish folk music and traditional sources. It is clearly in evidence in the earliest work on the disc, Krzesany, dating from 1974. Inspired by the Polish mountains the work opens with densely rich, resonant string chords that immediately bring to mind Górecki. Kilar soon ploughs his own path however, the music moving through a sequence of passages, some contemplative, some, as in the first return of the opening chords, now blazing with brass accompaniment. The folk element can be heard at several points in the work but none so clearly as at 6í43" where an earthy, stamping, peasant like dance reminiscent of Bartók takes hold, eventually transforming itself into a passage of rushing dissonant semi-quavers in rhythmic unison, the harmony becoming progressively tougher and a clear reminder of the composerís avant-garde roots. The work closes in a wild folk dance induced riot, the music becoming ever more multi-layered and out of control before a long, slow brass crescendo brings the party to a very abrupt halt.

Angelus shows a very different side of Kilarís musical nature, forming a setting of the Ave Maria text on a grand scale. The work opens with mysterious spoken recitations alternating between male and female voices, gradually building over three and a half minutes until the orchestra joins in a huge climax, the choir shouting the name of Jesus repeatedly. The music subsides into a rapt oration for solo soprano over strings and chorus (again echoes of Górecki here), movingly beautiful in its simplicity. The accompanying textures grow richer until a further climax is reached following which the solo soprano returns, this time supported by the chorus over a slowly treading orchestral accompaniment that ultimately brings the work to a peaceful and satisfying resolution.

In his booklet note Richard Whitehouse describes Exodus as Kilarís Boléro and it is not difficult to hear why. Strikingly imaginative in its use of orchestral resources the entire work revolves around the haunting clarinet melody heard at the outset, like the Ravel, generating a huge, slow crescendo and subjecting the theme to a multitude of instrumental transformations whilst never deviating from its original melodic form. It is not until late in the work after a brass led, martial like climax that there is a change in the momentum, the choir entering with rapid biblical exclamations before the word Domine is repeated with increasing intensity, over the top of which trumpets reintroduce the original theme. The choir then take up the theme and drive the work to a triumphant conclusion.

At a little over three and a half minutes Victoria is by far the briefest work on the disc, being in many ways a condensation of the process used in Exodus and very recognisably the work of the same composer. Opening with a bold orchestral gesture the choir enter with martial like precision, as Richard Whitehouse points out not unlike Orff, but perhaps more tellingly initially reminiscent of a Jerry Goldsmith film score. The mood soon changes to one of celebration and this highly attractive little ode concludes resolutely and emphatically.

There may not be the greatest degree of originality in Kilarís music but without exception these works are attractive, colourful, accessible and, as you would expect for a composer with a track record in film music, scored with impressive variety and skill. Anyone with a liking for the later works of Górecki, Kancheli or maybe even Arvo Pärt, will find much to enjoy and at super budget price I can well recommend taking a chance Kilarís music. The recordings are vividly recorded and the performances by all Polish forces get to the heart of the musicís spirit.

Christopher Thomas.


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