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Wojciech KILAR (b.1932)
Lament for choir a cappella (2003) [14.25]
September Symphony (2003) [40.27]
Warsaw Philharmonic Choir/Henryk Wojnarowski
Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/Antoni Wit
rec. 2003. DDD
CD ACCORD ACD 130-2 [54.47]

Sleeve Photographs


Here are two works (one for choir the other for orchestra) seemingly kindred in their inspiring spark: the tragedy of the Twin Towers and 9-11. The notes tell us much first-hand about September Symphony but hardly anything about Lament. This a cappella piece is for mixed choir. It is reverential, awed and with the warming subtle sustaining tone of Stanford's Bluebird blended with Rachmaninov's Vespers. There is absolutely nothing dissonant about it - in fact you might liken it to an East European Tavener or Rutter. The piece is rounded with a sleep of peaceful blessing on the faintest of dissonances. It is a lovely piece and well worth preparation by any choir. It is sung here by the dedicatee group.

The September Symphony is in four movements: two big tragic largos (13.15 and 12.53) interspersed with an allegro (5.26) and a final moderato (8.47). The first largo has the brass retching out a tragic note cell while the strings intone soulfully. The dark introspective humming of the strings ends the movement complete with a gentle valedictory gesture from the trumpet. The Allegro buzzes and stings with attacking playing from the unison violins like a Bernard Herrmann chase (Psycho or North by Northwest) taken up by the rest of the orchestra in thunder and tempest. Horns boil into action at 3.20.

The second Largo has a Barber- or Harris-like gentle glow and develops a monumental weight bearing down on the listener. There are clear memorial gestures as in the subtle light of the brass choir at 6.30 which rises to the heights of tragic protest without barbarism. A deftly calm ending follows. The finale has a quickish pulse instinct with characteristic determination - fixed on high hopes. The motoric drive of the section from 5.00 onwards has the qualities of a William Schuman scherzo and of Bernstein's Serenade. Out of it emerges a fine heroic theme carried first by the horns and then by the strings. That theme has something of Rubbra about it. The composer mentions that this movement quotes from America the beautiful, music for westerns, gospel, blues and Gershwin. No need to fear a kitsch collage; if these influences are present they are subtly subsumed.

The Symphony is dedicated to 'my friend Antoni Wit' fulfilling a longstanding promise. It is Kilar's Third Symphony but he has disowned the other two as student works uncharacteristic of his true voice.

Two sincere works with aspirations to eternity and with the expressed capacity for eloquence. The modest applause at the end of the Symphony surely echoes poignant quietude rather than disappointment.

Rob Barnett


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