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Józef ŚWIDER (b.1930)
Te Deum [19:35]
Jubilate Deo [2:55]
Pater noster (1986) [4:44]
Wierzę (Credo) [2:34]
Salve Regina [5:08]
Czego chcesz od nas Panie (1983) [3:49]
Lux perpetua (1987) [3:38]
Vocalisa “Pax” [3:27]
Missa minima [4:28]
Moja piosnka (1983) [2:29]
Ave maris stella [3:17]
Requiem aeternam (1996) [5:08]
Da pacem Domine [4:43]
Laudate pueri [2:42]
Cantus gloriosus [3:59]
Katarzyna Trylnik (soprano); Czesław Gałka (baritone): Arkadiusz Skotnicki and Piotr Sutt (precussion); Julian Gembalski (organ)
Polski Chór Kameralny/Jan Łukaszewski
rec. St Nikolai, Gdansk, February 2005 
CARUS 83.176 [73:19]

Świder was born in Czechowice, Upper Silesia, in 1930. He studied in Katowice and later with Petrassi in Rome, subsequently returning to teach composition at his old college for many years. He has been very active as composer, pedagogue, and jury member and more generally in the propagation of Polish choral music. His most admired works include operas such as Magnus and Wit Stwosz, neither of which I’ve heard but his choral works also occupy an exemplary place in modern Polish music. They are shorn of artifice and dogma, utterly repudiating the isms, and schisms, that marked much post-War Polish music. It’s wholly approachable, broadly diatonic, richly romantic, and neither ascetic nor pious. It’s hard to tell from the outside but it also sounds like an involving and rewarding sing even when, as here, many of his liturgical pieces are so compact – the well named Missa minima for example lasts only four and a half minutes; and that’s one of the longer ones in this selection.

Ave Maria and Pater noster from 1985-86 may be better known in Poland than abroad but the 1980s also saw the flourishing of his interest in smaller forms of liturgical music. Most of the pieces here are undated but they all seem to have been written after 1980.  Requiem aeternam was definitely written in 1996.

The Polski Chór Kameralny under Jan Łukaszewski sounds a compact body and performs with understanding generosity. They bring a suitably joyful and affirmative belief to Jubilate Deo with its freewheeling organ part – the tissue of elation solidly rooted in romantic procedures. Świder attempts to bring a prayerful truthfulness to bear in his compositions. The Gregorian seems to lie behind Wierzę (Credo) where the chant brings its own very personal sense of identification, before growing ever richer, ever more burnished. This is one of the few pieces to sound obviously Polish. Quick speech rhythms animate Czego chcesz od nas Panie and appropriately so as the texts derives from a poem by the sixteenth century writer Jan Kochanowski. But Świder also writes something like the highly unusual Requiem aeternam which is drenched in folk speech and patterns and moves with decisive direction.

The big work here is the Te Deum, though even so the ten movements are still only nineteen minutes in length. Here the organ is augmented by percussion and by two solo voices and choir. The opening is a dramatic flourish utilising the percussion. We can hear how adroitly Świder utilises registration and colour to bring a sense of limpidity and reflection to the music (Pleni sunt caeli) or can vest the soprano solo with more expressive weight and shape, as in Te gloriosus. The baritone solo in Judex crederis is suitably nobly grained. One also notes how spare some of the writing can be and how the more troubled movements contrive still to bear considerable weight of expression.

The works are recorded closely so as to minimise the echo in St Nikolai, Gdansk – only really apparent as the notes die away at the end of the Te Deum. Świder’s direct and honest voice is an illuminating and warm one – admirers of, say, Gerald Finzi’s early choral works will find no sharp corners here; on the contrary, plenty to enjoy.

Jonathan Woolf



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