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Otton Mieczysław ŻUKOWSKI (1867-1942)
Opera Omnia Religiosa 5 & 6 - Christmas Carols
Marta Wróblewska (soprano); Paweł Pecuszok (tenor); Mikołaj Zgódka (tenor); Robert Kaczorowski (baritone); Przemysław Kummer (bass-baritone); Urszula Iżbicka (piano)
rec. 4-6 July 2016, Hall of the Paderewski Combined Schools of Music, Byalystock, Poland. DDD
ACTE PRÉALABLE AP0368/9 [55:07 & 49:57]

These two discs of Christmas carols are part of Acte Préalable's Żukowski Edition. The previous volumes are AP0288; AP0343; AP0347 and AP0354. Żukowski's songs are sincere and plain-speaking. They are not art-songs. Their draw will be felt especially by Poles everywhere, who, I suspect, in many cases will feel a connection through childhood and upbringing. Robert Kaczorowski, one of the five singers, provides the notes and invites the listener "to kneel at the foot of the manger and be allowed to be filled with faith, hope and love for the time that lies ahead." This simplicity and faith extends to the music which has, for the most part, one voice singing accompanied by piano. Each disc plays for about an hour and contains twenty-one songs. These are best taken in short incremental groups. Acte Préalable did well in opting for five voices and the songs are configured to make the best use of such variety. These unaffected carols are the antidote to seasonal dazzling lights, glamour, bathos and caramel sentimentality.

I don't have a great deal to say about the songs individually but note that several on volume 6 are laid out for piano and two voices, man and woman, but these are in a very small minority. Some have a calypso tendency such as Narodził się Jezus Chrystus. Others have a delightful Mozartean accent: Ach witajże pożądana; A cóż z tą dzieciną and Pasterze mili; the latter featuring alternating soprano and male voices. Marta Wróblewska is bell-clear and is well suited to this material as are all the voices here. A few of the songs ring out like Stanford ballads, as in case of Bracia patrzcie jeno where the bass-baritone Przemysław Kummer is oaken and sturdy. Some songs are glum and lugubrious while others are artlessly blithe such as Cieszmy się i pod niebiosy and Hej bracia czy śpicie. Mędrcy świata has the tone of a national anthem. Others, such as Przy onej górze, are fragrant with the scents of mountain pastures.

The booklets are in Polish only so far as the sung words are concerned although the extensive background note is in Polish and English.

Simple, sometimes sing-song carols, given a forthright recording, which are most likely to have attractions for Polish audiences everywhere.

Rob Barnett

Volume 5: Anioł pasterzom; Ach witajże pożądana; A cóż z tą dzieciną; Anielski chór; A wczora z wieczora; Ach ubogi w żłobie; Bóg się rodzi; Cieszmy się i pod niebiosy; Bracia patrzcie jeno; Dzisiaj w Betlejem; Gdy się Chrystus rodzi; Hej bracia czy śpicie; Hej w dzień narodzenia; Jakaż to gwiazda; Jezus malusieńki; Jezusa narodzonego; Król wiecznej chwały; Lulajże Jezuniu; Mędrcy świata; Mesyasz przyszedł; Na kopie siana

Volume 6: Narodził się Jezus Chrystus; O gwiazdo Betleemska; Pan z nieba i z łona; Pasterze mili; Pastuszkowie ze snu; Pasterzu; Pójdźmy wszyscy; Pospieszcie pastuszki; Przybieżeli do Betlejem; Przy onej górze; Słyszę z nieba muzykę; Śliczna Panienka; Tryumfy króla; W dzień Bożego narodzenia; Wesołą nowinę; Witajże dzieciątko; Wiwat dzisiaj; Wśród nocnej ciszy; W żłobie leży; Z narodzenia Pana; Zjawiło się nam



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