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Wojciech KILAR (b.1932)
Missa Pro Pace (1999) [67.28]
Zofia Kilanowicz (sop)
Jadwiga Rappé (alto)
Charles Daniels (ten)
Piotr Nowacki (bass)
Lower Silesian Opera Choir/Alan Urbanek
Witold Lutosławski Philharmonic, Wrocław/Marek Pijarowski

St Mary Magdalen Cathedral, Wrocław, Poland, 14 Sept 2002. DDD
DUX 0434 [67.28]

Kilar has not always been the beaming face of contemporary Polish music. In the mid-1970s his works bore the sterner impress of Penderecki. The choral and orchestral work Bogurodzica is an example of something closer to the forbidding face of dissonance and fragmentation. In the Mass recorded here Kilar has profundity in his sights but his language, shaped by the universality of his subject matter, is tonal and communicates without barrier.

Spirituality has always been there. Kilar's Missa Pro Pace is ambitious in scale and message. Like the recently heard Vasks String Quartet No. 4 the music seems to look back over the twentieth century knowing its slaughters, pogroms and obdurate heartlessness. Rather than despairing the Mass finally sings a reconciling song - sorrowful yet triumphantly calm.

The Missa is in five meaty sections each allocated its own substantial track. There is no further sub-division although some of the sections are clearly in further episodes.

The scene is set by a stern-tense adagio where the radiant opulence of Barber-like strings meets the seething tension of a Shostakovich adagio-meditation. There is an unaccompanied Kyrie eleison where the soloists enter in a meditative duet. The following Gloria in excelsis deo (tr.2) tests the massed choirs with pummelling motorism as the singers spit out the words. The echo is inevitable: Orff. The solo voices return in an idyllic intertwining duet like that in Delius's Once I passed through a populous city. Martellato writing for the choir closes the Gloria.

The centre-point comes in the third track where the undulating movement of Russian Orthodox spirituality is heavy with the fragrance of incense. The choir produce a consistently joyous velvet and auburn glow in the singing of the Crucifixus (tr 3 10.02).

The sweetly-toned voice of Zofia Kilanowicz who has recorded Gorecki's Third Symphony leads the listener through the Sanctus. It is not to be taken as a criticism if I mention that it has a touch of Rutter about it. This section begins with awed expectation conjured by harp and with a quietly breathing string ostinato. The quartet of singers is strong overall although Rappé is strained. The inter-twining of voices is Monteverdian in the ensemble at 7.53. Magical moments include, at 13.02, the semi-chorus singing a distanced Dona Nobis Pacem.

In this work there is nothing of the stage. The music has none of the barbaric thrumming of Bogurodzica. The gentler profile of Kilar's score for the film The Ninth Gate is a more relevant reference.

Kilar takes the Brucknerian way of the sincere head-bowed composer, the servant of his message.

Rob Barnett


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