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Stanisław MONIUSZKO (1819-1872)
Latin Mass in D flat major (1870) [33.39]
Funeral Mass in G minor (1871) [19.57]
St. Peter’s Mass in B flat major (1872) [23.10]
Marta Boberska (soprano); Agnieszka Rehlis (alto); Rafal Barminski (tenor); Jaroslaw Brek (bass); Andrezej Bialko (organ); The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir/Henryk Wojnarowski
rec. Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, May-August 2008
DUX 0657 [76.42]
Experience Classicsonline

Stanisław Moniuszko is best known as the founding father of Polish national opera. In addition to writing operas he also completed seven masses and numerous other liturgical pieces. The three masses on this disc are his final three, all completed in the early 1870s. This was the period of Moniuszko’s creative decline after the 1863 Warsaw insurrection which had resulted in the loss of his post as director of productions at the Weikli Theatre.

The Latin Mass of 1870 exists in two versions: one for chorus, soli, strings and organ and the other with just organ accompaniment. It is this latter which is performed here. The other two masses - the Requiem mass of 1871 and the Polish mass of 1872 - exist only in versions with organ accompaniment. The Requiem mass sets a Latin text but St. Peter’s mass sets Polish words which the CD booklet describe as being by the Polish poet Justyn Wojewodzki. Judging by the track titles, the Polish mass adopts the ordinary of the mass with the addition of a gradual and an offertory. In fact all three masses add the gradual and offertory to the standard mass sections but the lack of any texts means that I am unclear as to what the particular gradual and offertory texts are.

Moniuszko’s masses appear to have been written for church usage. They are charming, melodic and not without interest, but compared to Brahms’s sacred music, that of Moniuszko belongs to an earlier age. Perhaps it is significant that Brahms admired the sacred music of Bach and his pieces reflect this complexity. There’s every appearance that Moniuszko on the other hand was content to write lyrical and predominantly homophonic music, with the organ acting simply as discreet support. Interest comes from the use of solo voices, either singly or as an ensemble, and the attractive nature of Moniuszko’s melodic voice.

The choir here sings with an attractive, clear, bright sound and they are supported by four soloists with fine lyric voices. None of the soloists is overstretched by the music, and all shape Moniuszko’s melodies in a natural and attractive manner.

The CD booklet contains an introduction to the music and artists biographies in English, but no texts.

These masses are ideal material for good church choirs and if this disc does anything, it deserves to generate interest in liturgical performances of Moniuszko’s music. That said, despite charming performances, I don’t really find enough interest in these masses to warrant returning to them very often.

Robert Hugill




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