Juliusz LUCIUK (b.1927)
Gesang am Brunnen — oratorio for soprano, tenor, baritone, mixed choir and chamber orchestra (c.1993)
Bozena Harasimowicz (soprano)
Jacek Laszczkowski (tenor)
Janusz Borowicz (baritone)
Chór Polskiego Radia w Krakowie
Orkiestra Kameralna Polskiego Radia w Krakowie/José Maria Floréncio
rec. live, 17 August 1996, Klosterkirche Loccum, Germany
Texts, but not translated into English
Juliusz Luciuk was born in Krakow in 1927. In his oratorio Gesang am Brunnen – ‘Singing by the Spring’, in English - he took poems by fourteen writers from a wide variety of religious backgrounds to give an 'ecumenical coming-together of people.' The desire to create a uniform continuum between these Lutheran, Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist writers’ works, despite the variety of subject matter, creates a lack of polar contrast within the work itself. It emerges as a whole. Whether that stimulates a genuine sense of coherence is something that the individual listener must decide, but it did for me.
The oratorio lasts some 55 minutes and is written for soprano, tenor, baritone, mixed choir and chamber orchestra. Many of the writers will be rather obscure, especially for Anglophones. Perhaps the most internationally well-known recent writers are Pablo Neruda (the Chilean poet who took his surname from the Czech writer Jan Neruda), and the Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld. Our old friend The Book of Genesis appears, as does Paul of Tarsus. Martin Luther, too, is represented.
The oratorio is immediately attractive and approachable. Luciuk has gone through several stylistic modes since the 1950s but here he has moved away from stylisation and extremes, toward a kind of mainstream. This has resulted in writing that is supportive but not supine, with enough going on instrumentally to keep things both clear and sympathetically supportive of the texts. The mood is generally restrained. I wouldn't want to suggest any kind of similarity, but there were even brief moments that put me in mind of an unlush Canteloube, if such a thing can be imagined. At other points Herbert Howells came to mind. This spirit even embraces post-late Romanticism, if I can call it that, though it never embraces the kind of writing that Pärt and Gorecki and their followers have fashioned in religious music.
Much here is warm and gentle, and not anguished. There is no mid-period Penderecki ethos. But there is attractive string colour, good opportunities for the three solo singers (all good), some consoling moments - there is an especially beguiling duet - and chances for vocal melismas tinged with ecstasy. The culminatory trio is buoyed by string wash and little bubbly brass.
This is a live performance, given in 1996, and one greeted with generous applause. It offers an interesting slant on yet another strand of contemporary Polish religious music.
Jonathan Woolf
An interesting slant on yet another strand of contemporary Polish religious music.