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withdrawn, of the Stabat Mater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
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.
see also review
by Gwyn Parry-Jones (Bargain of
the Month - December 03)