Gabriel KACZMAREK (b.1986)
Msza 1050 (2015)
Izabella Tarasiuk-Andrzejewska (mezzo); Tomasz Raczkiewicz (counter-tenor); Józef Biegański (boy soprano)
Cantanti Chorus/Mierzejewski Michał Sergiusz
Sinfonietta Polonia/Chau Cheung
rec. 14 May 2016, POSm Concert Hall, Poznan, Poland

This is the first recording of an ambitious headliner of a work by young Polish composer Gabriel Kaczmarek. It's hot off the creative anvil. Look at the session date for this recording which, by the by, is quite vivid. The acoustic is a studio but the cathedral illusion is more than passably put across.

This thirty year old composer wrote Msza 1050 to mark the 1050th anniversary of the beginning of Christianity in Poland. Kaczmarek plies his craft through ballet (a large-scale Alice opera-ballet-acrobatics was written in 2013 and a Snow-Queen ballet in 2016), film, advertising and electronic music.

By no means avant-garde, the Msa is in twelve movements, each separately tracked. The opening Kyrie eleison is dominated by a healingly rounded minimalist chugging rhythm. Over this we hear calming female voices smoothly lofting a long-limbed melody. The Gloria defies expectations and is for the most part subdued with joyous outbursts being isolated peaks. It is sweetly tempered for full choir. This music is not abrasive and should appeal instantly. Then a prayerful Psalm in Polish is again underpinned by a railroad ostinato with some intriguing accelerations - nothing extreme. A silvery pianissimo arches over and under the Alleluia; this is no shouted eruption; rather a mystic and quietly intoned celebration. The Credo finds dusky-toned mezzo Izabella Tarasiuk-Andrzejewska and counter-tenor Tomasz Raczkiewicz modestly balanced amid a suave auburn mattress of string writing. Fast chattering string figuration and bongo drums impart forward motion to Czego chcesz od nas Panie (tr.6) with the choir singing quietly as if they have a secret to express. Sanctus at first delivers overt excitement and this is felt in fulsome writing for voices and orchestra. This falls away into a cathedral of incense swirling until a confident Hosanna sweeps all before it.

Ojcze nasz takes the form of a prayerful, slow-footed march. Agnus Dei is built on another of those healing ostinati over which the mezzo rather tremulously sings, seemingly shaken to the core by sorrow. The orchestral Communio is like a bell tolling slowly. This rises up a shallow gradient across the longest movement of the twelve (7:45). It's a 'slow burn' — steady but with a glowing penumbra. The Ave Maria carries the meditative atmosphere higher still into bluer unclouded realms. The darkly trembling mezzo left me with some doubts although her melismas do impress. The final Ego te baptizo has plenty of tidal surge to impel choir, solo voices and orchestra to a fittingly ecstatic close.

This is a well contrasted and welcoming large-scale piece in a melodically accessible but not simplistic vein. It is most enjoyable with a strong spiritual dimension clothed in commercial and classical apparel.

The helpful glossy-surface booklet is in Polish, English and German.
Rob Barnett

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