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Stanisław MORYTO (b. 1947)
Four Pieces in Polish Style for String Orchestra (2011) [8.36]
Seven Kurpie Songs for Soprano and Orchestra (2006) [15.05]
Suite for String Orchestra (2016) [9.09]
Concerto for Percussion, Harp and String Orchestra (2004) [25.50]
Anna Mikołajczyk-Niewiedział (soprano)
Anna Sikorzak-Olek (harp)
Stanisław Skoczyński (percussion)
The Witold Lutosławski Chamber Philharmonic in Łomża/Jan Miłosz Zarzycki
rec. Museum of the Diocese, Łomża, 2016
DUX 1376 [58.44]

This is not the first CD of Moryto’s music – there are around half-a-dozen others - but it serves very well as an introduction to his melodic and sometimes moving style. His career has been largely academic, but his pedagogic work has been accompanied by an active life as performer and composer. Many of his works are secular, but he has written a range of religious works, including Masses. (There is a delightful comment on Amazon which describes his Missa Brevis Pro Defunctis as one that ‘feels like a prayer when listening to it’ – that, presumably, being the point.) As far as I can discover, Moryto has not attempted a symphony, preferring generally shorter works.

The opening Four Pieces in Polish Style for String Orchestra work almost as a suite or sinfonietta – the movements are, in turn, moderato, andante, larghetto and presto. For those who love the sound of the string orchestra, it is a delightful addition to the repertoire. The idiom is modern but tuneful and approachable – one to delight in.

The Seven Kurpie Songs are musically interesting and the young soprano Anna Mikołajczyk-Niewiedział, whom I had not previously encountered, has a beautiful voice for these poetic and utterly charming works. Arrangements, by Marcin Zieliński, are effective and true to the idiom of Moryto. However, enjoyment is affected by the absence of any texts or translations. For those of us with very limited Polish, it means that much is lost in terms of appreciating the nuances of word-settings. Indeed, that is my one complaint about this release. There is copious biographical material on the composer and performers, but nothing at all on the music.

It would look like damning with faint praise to describe the Suite for String Orchestra as containing nothing to frighten the horses, but I mean only that there is nothing to fear for potential listeners who are suspicious of ‘modern music’ It is a delightful piece which could easily come from a century ago. The disconcerting feature – given the absence of any explanatory notes, or any mention in the title of the piece – is the presence of the soprano voice in the second and fourth movements. It would be good to know both why she sings, but much more, what she is singing.

The most substantial work, in terms of length, is the 2004 Concerto for Percussion, Harp and String Orchestra. The opening of the first, Largo, movement is more astringent than other works on the disc, and, indeed, the whole is grittier in idiom, though there are sections of melodic material. Parts are almost minimalist in expression, with repetitions and subtle changes in material, but there are moments of great tenderness: percussion has many uses, it is not simply to batter, and Stanisław Skoczyński, being a percussionist of great distinction, understands this. Like Moryto, he is a teacher as well as performer, both with strong connections to the Fryderyk Chopin Academy in Warsaw – Anna Mikołajczyk-Niewiedział and Anna Sikorzak-Olek are both graduates, and Jan Miłosz Zarzycki is a professor there.

A most rewarding release. Moryto is not among the greatest composers, but is a very good one, with something distinctive – and enjoyable – to say.

Michael Wilkinson



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