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Mikołaj ZIELEŃSKI ( fl. 1611)
Opera Omnia - vol. 1
Offertoria Totius Anni (1611) (i-xxiii) [75:01]
Collegium Zieleński
Capella Cracoviensis/Stanisław Galoński
rec. Church of St Mary of Fatima, Kraków, Poland, July-August 2007, June-July 2009.
Track List at end of review
DUX 0740 [75:01] 

Opera Omnia - vol. 2

Offertoria Totius Anni (1611) (xxiv-xl) [57:17]
Collegium Zieleński/Stanisław Galoński
rec. Church of St Mary of Fatima, Kraków, 5-8 July 2010. DDD
Track List at end of review
DUX 0786 [57:17] 

Opera Omnia - vol. 3

Offertoria Totius Anni (1611) (xli-lvi) [50:58]
Collegium Zieleński/Stanisław Galoński
rec. Church of St Mary of Fatima, Kraków, 13 June - 8 August 2011. DDD
Track List at end of review
DUX 0861 [50:58] 

'Opera Omnia' in the case of Polish composer Mikołaj Zieleński means only two known works, but they are colossal. So huge, in fact, that each has been recorded by DUX across three CDs. All six discs are available in a recently-released boxed set, but initially - and rather strangely, it must be said - each volume was issued separately. 

The first three reviewed here, Collegium Zieleński's recording of the Offertoria Totius Anni, published in Venice in 1611, appeared between 2009 and 2011. Now is clearly a better time to acquire these works, with the project complete and qualitative integrity quantifiable. The discs are unquestionably worth consideration, albeit with certain caveats that will loom larger or smaller, depending primarily on the listener's sensitivities towards authentic performance. 

Choir size is the chief issue. Both Collegium Zieleński and Capella Cracoviensis - the latter appearing only on volume 1 - consist of a sizeable array of SATB voices with a complement of instrumentalists. The quantity of singers gives rise to a certain loss of internal detail, whilst the different-sized voice groupings arguably create minor imbalances. Nevertheless, the singing is generally well blended and in any case of a high quality. The sung Latin has a central European flavour, meaning that in some ways it is superior to a typically British or American rendition, especially in the pronunciation of every [r], which the latter nationalities frequently take to be optional. On the other hand, the Polish rendition of 'caeli' is no less disturbing for Latin purists. Instruments are very sparsely deployed, mostly no more than subtle organ support, a fact which - regardless of any debate regarding the composer's express wishes (addressed in the booklet notes) - creates a certain homogeneity of sound that makes a straight-through audition rather a daunting prospect. 

Those who purchase more than a single disc will thus find that a more 'spread-out' approach to listening produces a greater appreciation of the enormity of Zieleński's achievement. Little is known about the composer. Some sources give his birth date as around 1550, but there seems to be little if any reliable evidence for this. He is chiefly known from the publication of his two separate cycles for the church year, both dedicated to Wojciech Baranowski, Archbishop of Gniezno and primate of Poland. In the Offertoria there are 56 items, all polychoral: 12 for two seven-part choirs, 43 for two eight-part choirs, and a final 12-part magnificat for three. Overall, the music is reminiscent, even without the expected instrumental amplification, of Zieleński's Italian contemporary Giovanni Gabrieli, though less demonstrative and less innovative. 

DUX's engineering is good on the whole, although there is quite a lot of reverberation and the gap between tracks seems artificially long - around ten seconds - which, combined with the use of digital silence, gives a certain sense of discontinuity. Kraków's Church of St Mary of Fatima has been used to record all three volumes, but there are four years between one end and the other, and discerning ears may notice a slightly different audio 'feel' in places, most obviously within the volume one, where the two years that separate the two choirs' parts constitute a curious anomaly. Regrettably, someone whispers near the microphones in the final second of the final Magnificat, picked up by the equipment but not by the engineer/producer. 

Booklets give the original Latin texts with Polish and English translations. There are basic biographies of Zieleński and performers, with small, 'Communist-style' black and white photos. English translations of the accompanying notes in volume 1 are by a non-native, but are reasonably competent. Volume 2 employs the same translator with better notes on Zieleński this time, albeit basically a paraphrase of the first. Volume 3 has slightly different notes by a second author, but still saying much the same thing. Here though a different non-native translator gives a shoddier rendition of the Polish, as for example: "an outstanding talent of Polish artist, who is still not enough known and appreciated both in Poland and in the world." Track listings in each case are highly detailed. 

All in all, these are recordings that will appeal almost exclusively to collectors of the period or of Polish music, though no one whose only previous experience of this era is Thomas Tallis is likely to be disappointed with a disc, or indeed three, of Zieleński's epic late-Renaissance-cum-proto-Baroque music.  

Byzantion

Collected reviews and contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk
 
See also reviews by Johann van Veen of Volume 1, Volumes 2 & 3

Track lists: 

Vol.1
Laetentur caeli* [2:51]
Deus firmavit [2:57]
Tui sunt caeli [3:08]
Elegerunt Apostoli [3:17]
Iustus ut palma florebit [2:30]
Anima nostra [3:19]
Inveni David [3:02]
Reges Tharsis [2:33]
Desiderium animae eius [3:40]
Tu es Petrus* [3:51]
Laetamini in Domino* [2:44]
Mihi autem nimis* [3:23]
Diffusa est gratia* [3:03]
Constitues eos* [3:32]
Veritas mea et misericordia* [2:51]
Ave Maria [4:30]
Terra tremuit [3:36]
Angelus Domini descendit* [2:54]
Intonuit de caelo Dominus* [2:55]
Confitebuntur caeli* [3:29]
Dextera Domini fecit virtutem* [4:21]
Posuisti Domine* [3:28]
Gloria et divitiae* [3:09]
 
Vol.2
Ascendit Deus [3:47]
Confirma hoc Deus [3:18]
Portas caeli aperuit Dominus [3:17]
Benedictus sit Deus pater [3:38]
Sacerdotes Domini [3:27]
Mirabilis Deus [3:02]
Gloriabuntur in te omnes [2:42]
Beata es virgo Maria [2:47]
Filiae regnum in honore tuo [3:01]
In omnem terram exivit sonus [3:02]
Confessio et pulchritudo [3:50]
Assumpta es Maria [3:22]
In virtute tua Domine [3:54]
Protege Domine plebem tuam [3:03]
Stetit angelus [4:02]
Iustorum animae [3:04]
Domine Deus in simplicitate cordis mei [4:07]
 
Vol.3
Afferentur regi Domino [3:30]
Gloria et honore [2:46]
Laetentur omnes [2:49]
Felix namque es [3:17]
Factus est repente [2:50]
Tanto tempore [2:56]
Assumpsit Jesus Petrum [2:29]
Per merita Sancti Adalberti [2:41]
Ortus de Polonia [2:52]
Igneo Ignati iubar [2:38]
Estuet puris [2:43]
Salve festa dies [4:18]
Spiritus sancti gratia [3:10]
Fulget in choro virginum [2:39]
Domine ad adiuvandum [2:19]
Magnificat [7:09] 

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