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17th Century Popular Music from Poland - Dances and Songs from the ‘Polcoki Manuscript’
Garwoliia [3.02]; Nie zlodziejem (song) [2.47]; Ach, meczek [1.59]; Serce, odezwy sie [3.19]; Polonez [2.47]; Piesn o naswietszym (song) [2.45]; Nieobyczayne oczy [1.56]; Three Dances - medley [2.32]; Nie zaluy, cos abiecala [3.07]; Folia [2.27]; Cypryjskie gasieta (song) [3.51]; Pavana [4.44]; Pagamoszka (Dance medley) [4.14]; Kedykolwiek, me kochanie (song) [3.11]; Taniec (medley) [2.18]; Three Dances [3.16]; Na bliskich lakach [3.18]; Canson a 2 [2.20]; Serce mi wziela/Nie zlodziejam [3.08]; Im Pilniey na Twoie (song) [3.47]; Cakolwiek cznisz - (medley) [3.16]; Ballet Polonois [1.31]; Coranto [1.50]; Vilanella [1.41]; Jako róza (song) [3.47]; Two Galliardas [2.04]; Ciupa/Mazur [1.29]
Greensleaves (Marilyn Fung (viola da gamba); Shannon Purves-Smith (recorder, viol)); Michael Purves-Smith (recorders, harpsichord); Stephanie Kramer (soprano); Jennifer Enns-Modolo (mezzo); Jerzy Bugaj (baritone); Nathaniel Wiseman (baritone); Robin Purves-Smith (jew’s harp))/Magdalena Tomsinska (lute)
rec. January, June, August 2009, St. Peters Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cambridge, Ontario; Music Faculty, Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario. DDD

Experience Classicsonline

Sometimes my heart sinks when I receive a CD like this - obscure music from a distant culture. It’s probably with a booklet, which - if it has been translated - may be only part of an essay in rather questionable English and with probably no translated texts. Not so here, I immediately warmed to a beautifully presented booklet with attractive colour photos of the performers and an assured and enthusiastic essay with issues and background clearly discussed. Sung texts are in the original and in English side by side. Most importantly it offers attractive, refined and interesting music beautifully performed on instruments suitable for the period and the place.
In 1962 a manuscript was discovered inside the covers of a Greek Orthodox missal in Polstsk a town now in Belarus. The music consisted of over 200 long-forgotten songs and dances of the 17th Century, thirty-nine of which have been recorded here. The reclamation of the manuscript took some time but the three members of the group ‘Greensleaves’ under the inspiration of lutenist Magdalena Tomsinska have spent some time on it. This disc is the fruit of their studies. They are joined by six guest musicians who sing and play recorders, Jew’s harp, and keyboards. The atmosphere is one of fun and frolic. Although there are more serious pieces, and although none of the music is especially significant much of it is catchy and some of it is strongly memorable.
Another source used is a rare collection ‘Canzona prima’ by Marcin Mielczewski (c.1600-1651). Amongst the pieces chosen is an attractive dance which comes as part of a dance medley (an attractive idea this which surfaces throughout the disc) called Taniec. There’s also a Pagamoszka (a Bergamask) found in another medley. We also learn of one Marcin Zalewski, a lutenist whose accompaniment is used to the lovely song of lost love Kedykolwiek terez jestes (Wherever are you now my beloved) and of Wojciech Dlugoraj (c.1157-1620) who contributes a melodious Vilanella from a collection published in 1619.
Let me pick out a few more of the high spots.
As well as being lovingly re-creative performers they are also imaginatively creative and with this music this approach is quite appropriate. I much enjoyed Michael Purves-Smith’s composition to the text Jezu slodki (‘Sweet Jesu announced from Heaven’). It’s very much in 17th Century style but with his own variants on an ancient melody. Similarly the group provide variants on the famous ground-bass Folia, so popular for almost two hundred years. Magdalena Tomsinska’s lute variants float over the dignified Pavan melody. The curious dialogue song Cypryjskie gasieta is fun: a shepherd boy is tormented by the three women he calls his ‘geese’. This is probably from a theatre piece now lost.
The Canzona form was common in the 17th Century and its spread may have to been down to the fact that many composers studied in Italy or were much influenced by Italian style. There is an attractive canzona - an instrumental piece is several sections – called Canson a 2. The opening track Garwoliia is an even more elaborate canzona.
The Ballet polonois introduces us to a very early example of a Polonaise - that archetypal Polish dance. This one comes from the ‘Manuscit Milleran’ and is said to have been composed by one Antoine Gallot d’Angers - who doesn’t sound Polish, but never mind - who died in 1647. There is also a track entitled Polonez, which offers solo work for the bass viol. We also meet a ‘leaping’ Coranto with its wide-ranging intervals. The disc ends with a spirited dance called a Manur which again includes the Jews Harp.
If you would like more detail there’s a major article about this project to be found on the Greensleaves website.
Although the music recorded here is quite obscure and rare this is an enjoyable and extremely generously filled disc, which will provide a very happy hour or so. Everything is colourfully and neatly played and exquisitely recorded.

Gary Higginson













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