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Krzyzstof PENDERECKI (b.1933)
St Luke Passion (1962-66)
Izabella Kłosińka (soprano)

Adam Kruszewski (baritone)
Romuald Tesarowicz (bass)
Krzyzstof Kolberger (Evangelist)
Jaroslaw Malanowicz (organ)
Warsaw Boys Choir
Warsaw National Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra/Antoni Wit
Recorded Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, August and September 2002
NAXOS 8.557149 [76.24]


The St Luke Passion was written to commemorate the seven hundredth anniversary of Munster Cathedral and its premiere in 1966 coincided with the thousandth anniversary of Christianity’s introduction into Poland. The model is Bach’s Passions and Penderecki also uses psalms and hymns to further increase the spiritual and emotive depth. Let us say at the outset that this is a work of the utmost virtuosity and effect. The familiar devices are all here: tone clusters, vocal wails, sudden accumulation of sonorities, unstoppable instrumental eruptions, microtones. The work is a key product of Penderecki’s early maturity and it remains one of his most powerful. This recording copes exceptionally well with the myriad dramas and concentrated events that form the Passion.

The Chorus is set well in relation to the orchestra and is finely balanced; the spatial questions have been well resolved (particularly in Part I’s Deus meus). The dramatic cries and melismatic choral overlaps in Domine, quis habitabit are, for me, despite the more overt expression and theatricality later on, among the most satisfyingly convincing moments in the work – and act as apt preliminaries for the brass snarls and scurrying lower strings and tensile percussion of Adhuc eo loquente. He characterises the hornets torrent of the crowd vividly in Et viri as he does the intensely evocative harmonic complexities and coiled tension of the Miserere mei, Deus. Christ’s tessitura sometimes lies very high – the vocal ascent at points seeming to prefigure His own ascension – and the crucifixion is depicted with due complexity. The intoning, cloaked, occluded and withdrawn, of the Stabat Mater is moving and the work ends finally on the redemptive In te Domine speravi, which brings the Passion to an end in blazing light.

Antoni Wit leads a strong and experienced team of soloists from the grave Evangelist of Krzyzstof Kolberger to Izabella Kłosińka (soprano) Adam Kruszewski (baritone) and Romuald Tesarowicz (bass). All sing with nobility and fervour.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Gwyn Parry-Jones (Bargain of the Month - December 03)


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