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Musica Sacra Of The Wawel Cathedral
Andrzej Białko (organ)
Królewscy Rorantyści (The Royal Rorantists)/Stanisław Gałoński
rec. Clementina Hall, Vatican 8 May 1981 (John Paul II), Pauline Fathers Basilica Na Skałce 13 June 2016 (organ), Church of Our Lady of Fatima, Cracow, 14 -16 June 2016 (Roratists) DUX 1334 [59.32]
This is a rather strange disc, but is not without interest. It was released to coincide with World Youth Day 2016 in Cracow, attended by Pope Francis and about 3 million young Catholics.
This commemorative CD looks at the musical tradition of the Wawel cathedral, notably the Rorantist tradition. The original Rorantists were created by King Sigismund in 1540 and remained active at the Wawel Cathedral for over 300 years. Sigismund’s idea was that the singers would each day perform a Rorate Caeli Mass in the royal chapel – a variant on the practice of chantry masses. Before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Rorate Masses were said everywhere on Saturdays and throughout Lent. Even today, Rorate Masses play an important part in Eastern European and especially Polish Catholic culture. The name ‘Rorate’ comes from the opening of the Introit Psalm ‘Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum’ (roughly ‘Drop down dew, O heavens, from above and let the clouds rain on the just’). The Rorantists themselves were priest singers and composers. Comparatively little is known of individual composers as may be noted from the paucity of accurate dates above.
The works here reflect the tradition very well, in some fine performances, though solo work sometimes wobbles. The modern Royal Rorantists have eight voices, four tenors and two each of baritone and bass. The choral pieces are a capella and, in general, brisk, which is the traditional way with Gregorian chant and its successors. The Gregorian version of the Rorate is perhaps more floridly decorated than listeners might expect, but recognisably the most common tune. The sequence of pieces, mostly polyphonic, roughly follows the order of the Mass, with Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei in proper order. Nevertheless, some pieces would never appear in the same Mass, (such as funeral pieces in a Mass with a Gloria) but provide a varied programme when heard here.
Interspersed with the choral pieces are organ works by Jan of Lublin, well-played by Andrzej Białko at the Basilica Na Skałce in Cracow. The Basilica is something of a national Pantheon for Poles. Szymanowski is one of the many distinguished figures buried here. The instrument is well-captured and the music enjoyable while adding little to the history of organ composition.
An oddity is the longest piece on the disc, a welcome given to the Cappella Cracoviensis at the Vatican in 1981 by Pope St John Paul II. His voice has a rare beauty, but at eleven minutes it is difficult to imagine listeners wishing to hear too often a speech in strongly accented Italian, with hesitations in reading, with a more fluent interpolated section in Polish. Even the Vatican website provides no translation of the Polish, while the opening and closing sections are available, for some reason, only in Spanish. As far as I can tell there are no profound insights in the speech. Take that away and we are left with less than 50 minutes of music. Including the speech makes sense in the context of this CD as a souvenir but not for repeated listening.
The final piece, ’Gaudete, mater Polonia’ by Wincenty z Kielczy (Vincent of Kielcz) is interesting. It was once the anthem of Poland and is the oldest piece of Polish music by a composer whose name is known. It was probably first performed at the canonisation, in Cracow, of the martyr, St Stanisław. Here it is performed in Klonowski’s well-known arrangement in four parts, .
A weakness of the presentation is a lack of texts. The Latin texts are readily available and will be familiar to older Catholics or those familiar with the Latin texts of the Mass. The text of ‘Gaude, mater Polonia’ is also on Wikipedia.
There is much to enjoy here and any disc which increases our knowledge of Polish tradition is invaluable despite the short measure. I am even prepared to overlook the fact that the last time I visited the Wawel Cathedral, I had my wallet lifted, and spent an interesting day at police headquarters in Cracow reporting the loss ….
Track Listing Pope St JOHN PAUL II (1920-2005)
The Word of the Holy Father John Paul II [11.33] Gregorian Chant
Rorate Caeli [5.09] Marcin PALIGON (16th-17thc.)
Rorate Caeli [3.15] JAN z Lublina (1540)
Kyrie Fons Bonitatis [0.57]
Ultimum Kyrie [1.23] Krzysztof BOREK (d. after 1566)
Kyrie & Gloria (Missa Te Deum Laudamus) [5.31] JAN z Lublina
Pattrem Sollemne [1.23] Krzysztof BOREK
Credo (Missa Te Deum laudamus) [4.58] JAN z Lublina
Date Siceram Moerentibus [3.05] Krzysztof BOREK
Sanctus [2.16] JAN z Lublina
Tantum Ergo Sacraementum [2.47] Bartłomiej PĘKIEL (d.1670)
Benedictus (Missa pulcherrima) [2.46] Tomasz SZADEK (?1550-1612)
Agnus Dei (Officium in melodiam motetae Pisneme) [3.14] JAN z Lublina
Non mortui laudabunt te Domine [1.01]
De profundis clamavi [1.30] Grzegorz Gerwazy GORCZYCKI (1665/67 -1734)
Sepulto Domino [2.35] JAN z Lublina
Salve Regina [1.04] WINCENTY z Kielczy (13thc.)
Gaude Mater Polonia (arr. Teofil Klonowski) [3.23]