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Joanna BRUZDOWICZ (b.1943)
Lella - oratorio profane (2011) [51:00]
Liliana Górska (mezzo); Aline Rico (soprano); Emma Fettomi (oboe); Cyril Baudet-Coizet (percussion); NeoQuartet
La Chorale Osmose/Joanna Bruzdowicz
rec. live, 20 August 2015, XV Festival International de Musique en Catalogne, Salle de l’Union, Céret, France

When I first listened to this release I was reminded of Ivan Wyschnegradsky’s La Journée de L'Existence, a work which seems to lie in a very similar stylistic orbit. The text of Lella is by Christiane Schapira and is based on her play "Lella, Danielle Casanova, one life". Schapira explains how she had to completely re-adapt it for the oratorio, reducing the original length by one third. She also made the conscious decision to recite the spoken words, set between the sung elements, herself. She particularly wanted to collaborate with the Polish composer Joanna Bruzdowicz, who had previously written three operas focused on human tragedy. Bruzdowicz was born in Warsaw during the war into a world that witnessed the decimation of the Polish population as well as the destruction of many cities.

The libretto centres on the character of Vincentelli Perini (1909-1943), who trained as a dentist in Paris. Whilst there she became a member of the Union Fédérale des Étudiants, and met her future husband Laurent Casanova. Shortly after she changed her name to Danielle. In 1928 she joined the Communist Youth, and later founded the Union des Jeunes Filles de France - a pacifist, anti-fascist movement. At the outbreak of war, the French Communist Youth was banned and Danielle Casanova went into hiding, where she contributed to the underground press, especially "Pensée Libre". She also organised demonstrations against the occupying forces. Her arrest by the French police on 15 February 1942 was followed by being transported to Auschwitz on 24 January 1943, where her dentistry skills were put to good use. She died of typhus in the camp on 9 May 1943.

The scoring is lightly textured, and the NeoQuartet’s committed rendition has warmth and intimacy. I would also single out for special mention the vivid percussion effects provided by Cyril Baudet-Coizet, which add an array of spectacular colour to the music. Liliana Górska is marvellous, and her rich vibrato-laden voice caresses the vocal line with sincerity and rapt intensity. La Chorale Osmose are ideal, never sounding too big, but scaled perfectly in proportion to the rest of the performers; their ensemble is flawless. To intensify the immediacy of the music, there are some interesting sound effects added, apparently recorded in Perpignan. The composer herself directs the performance.

This live premiere recording is well-recorded, and the venue confers a spacious ambience on the proceedings. Ideal balance between the various sections and soloists has been admirably achieved by the Acte Préalable engineers. The booklet notes are in Polish, English and French. There are two caveats. The work is performed in French and no text or translation is provided. Also the complete oratorio is confined to a single track, with no reference points, which isn’t ideal.

Stephen Greenbank


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