Naxos, with the able assistance of Antoni Wit and his Warsaw
and Katowice forces, are doing Penderecki very proud. You’ll
find my review of his works for cello and orchestra (8.570509)
together with a link to all the MusicWeb reviews of his music
which had been published to that date (December 2008). Since
then Naxos have added a recording by Wit of the Symphony
No.8, with Dies iræ and Psalms of David (8.570450).
I can’t better the description from USA Today of the
Credo as a ‘colourful and extroverted’ piece, quoted
by Naxos on the rear insert of the CD. If you thought of the
earlier Penderecki as avant-garde, as indeed he was, and prefer
something a little more ‘traditional’, yet with a voice of its
own, you should be well pleased with this work. You may find
it reminiscent of the likes of Orff’s Carmina Burana
or Janácek’s Glagolitic Mass, even Bach at times,
without ever losing that individual voice which I’ve mentioned.
I’d heard it at least once in a broadcast performance, but I
was bowled over all over again by its wonderful combination
of passion and contemplation.
If you think that 50 minutes is rather long for the Credo
– it would make any celebration of Mass where it was employed
very long indeed – Penderecki interpolates biblical and liturgical
material at various points. After the Crucifixus section
there is a short Polish hymn, the Improperia or Reproaches
from the Good Friday liturgy in Latin and Polish, and the first
stanza of the hymn Pange lingua. The Et resurrexit
section is followed by the opening of the Seventh Seal from
Revelation 1115 and Confiteor unum baptisma
by the opening of the Eastertide hymn Salve festa dies.
Finally, Et vitam venturi sæculi, which rounds
off the work in rousing fashion and with the strongest echo
of the earlier Penderecki, contains the Easter response from
Psalm 117 (118): Hæc dies, This is the day which the
Lord hath made.
All concerned give of their best to make this a most effective
performance and the recording engineers match their achievement.
Some of the soloists on earlier Naxos recordings of Penederecki
have manifested something of a Slavonic ‘wobble’. I’m pleased
to say that it’s much less in evidence here: I hadn’t heard
any of them before, but they all negotiate the difficulties
of their parts. Choir and orchestra also have considerable demands
placed on them; they, too, acquit themselves well. If the textures
are a little opaque at times, that’s due more to the large sound
which Penderecki’s music produces than to the sound engineers.
There are rival recordings of this work: that on CD Accord which
MWI Classical Editor Rob Barnett reviewed here
(ACD066) offers rather short value, since it comes without filler
and Kazimierz Kord dispatches the Credo in just 48 minutes.
I listened to that version in ‘near CD’ quality, courtesy of
the Naxos Music Library and found little to choose between Kord
and Wit – both present an impassioned performance of an impassioned
work – except that the Naxos is much less expensive and contains
a short filler.
The Naxos Music Library also offers a performance on Hänssler
Classic, again without coupling, on which Helmuth Rilling conducts
the Oregon Bach Choir and Orchestra, a live performance from
1998, when the Credo was hot off the press by just a
few days (98.311). No doubt that was a memorable occasion and
this recording is a useful memento of it, but it lacks the punch
of the two Polish recordings.
The Cantata in honour of the Jagiellonian University,
near Kraków, is an earlier and much tougher proposition than
Credo and I responded to it less enthusiastically. I
wonder what the university authorities made of it. It seems
to be Naxos policy to mix earlier and later works, as on 8.557980
where the earlier Te Deum and more recent Hymn to
Daniel are coupled. I wish that I could be more appreciative
of the earlier works, but I find myself in the same position
as Dan Morgan, who regarded the Te Deum as a somewhat
bleak affair, engaging the ear but rarely the heart, by comparison
with the Hymn to Daniel. (See review).
Richard Whitehouse’s notes are excellent. The texts of the Credo
and the much shorter Cantata are included in the booklet.
The English translation is independent of both the traditional
Book of Common Prayer translation and its modern Roman Catholic
and Anglican equivalent – not always to its benefit, but it
will certainly pass muster for those unacquainted with the text.
I’m pleased to see Naxos apparently returning to including texts
and translations here and in other recent releases.
The misprint Qui propter nod homines, the heading for
the translation of track 2, provides an interesting diversion.
Presumably the nod homines were asleep at the time of
the nativity. Fortunately, the choir sing the correct nos
Like several other recent Naxos releases, my review copy reached
me with the most of the segments of the central rose which holds
the CD shattered. I hope that is not becoming a regular feature
of their cases.
I’ve just resisted making another Naxos recording Bargain of
the Month – Missa solemnis attributed to Mozart and Mayr
Te Deum (8.570926) – but this must join their recording
of Haydn’s ‘Nelson’ Mass and Nikolaimesse (8.572123)
among the holders of that honour.