MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Bartłomiej PĘKIEL (? - c1666)
Masses & motets
Missa Secunda [23:08]
Ave Maria [3:00]
Sub tuum praesidium [1:54]
Assumpta est Maria [3:13]
Missa Pulcherrima [31:24]
Magnum nomen Domini [1:19]
Resonet in laudibus [1:21]
Aldona Bartnik (soprano), Matthew Venner (alto), Maciej Gocman (tenor), Tomáš Král, Jaromír Nosek (bass)/Andrzej Kosendiak
rec. 2015, Red Hall, Witold Lutosławski National Forum of Music, Wrocław, Poland
Texts and translations included
CD ACCORD ACD222-2 [66:18]

With the birth of the stile nuovo around 1600 in Italy, the role of traditional polyphony had not come to an end. Across Europe composers continued to write in the style which was particularly favoured by the church, and of which Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was considered the supreme representative. The present disc attests to that as it presents two masses, three motets and two carols in polyphonic style. The composer, Bartłomiej Pękiel, is one of the most renowned masters in Polish history.

The exact date and place of Pękiel's birth are not known. The German theorist Johann Mattheson claimed he was of German origin, but this remains unproven. He entered the court of King Władysław IV Vasa in Warsaw some time after 1633 and in 1641 he became vice-maestro di capella under Marco Scacchi. When the latter left the court in 1649, Pękiel took over his duties, although he was only officially appointed maestro di capella in 1653. Two years later, Warsaw was captured by the Swedes and the court was dissolved. Pękiel moved to Cracow where he became director of music of the Wawel cathedral chapel.

There is some difference in style between the music written at the royal court in Warsaw and that of Pękiel's Cracow period. In Warsaw he wrote many large-scale pieces for voices and instruments, and made use of the Venetian polychoral technique. But the masses and motets he composed in Cracow are more moderate in scoring and written in a more conservative style, and for voices only. The pieces recorded here are all for four voices, but in the division of the voices they are different. The Missa Secunda and the three motets are for voces aequales, which means: male voices, whereas the other works include a treble part.

The Missa Secunda seems to be intended for the daily practice in Wawel Cathedral, which goes back to King Sigismund I 'the Old' (1467-1548), who was a great patron of the arts. He wanted to secure his place in the cultural history of his country with a sepulchral chapel in Wawel Cathedral. He also founded the Collegium of Rorantists (Cappella Rorantistarum) whose duty was to sing in his chapel every day a Rorate Caeli mass. At the beginning, the Rorantists were a national ensemble, which consisted of priest-singers and composers who sang Polish music, but also pieces by the leading composers of the time, such as Palestrina and Lassus. In the course of time composers from elsewhere who settled in Poland also joined the Rorantists.

The Missa Secunda is not based on a vocal model, as so many masses of the 16th century are. However, every section of the mass - with the exception of the Agnus Dei - opens with the same descending motif. The mass is dominated by imitative polyphony. Only here and there influences of the modern style of Pękiel's time manifest themselves. The Missa Pulcherrima has the addition ad instar Praenestini to its title, a reference to Palestrina. It is probably the composer's last work; the copy is dated 1669. There are some similarities between themes in this mass and a song, the melody of which may be identical with a Marian song in Latin, called Pulcherrima rosa, and therefore the liner-notes suggest that this mass could be intended for a Marian feast. Again, imitative polyphony is the name of the game here. There are some elements of text expression, for instance in the Credo (passus et sepultus est; non erit finis). Once again the motif, which opens the Kyrie, is repeated at the start of the next sections.

The three motets are all connected to the veneration of the Virgin Mary, which has always been very important in Poland. Assumpta est in coelum is for the Feast of the Assumption; the other two belong to a collection of common prayers. Sometimes Pękiel splits the ensemble in pairs of voices (high vs. low). The disc ends with two carols; as so often with music for Christmastide, they are rather simple and straightforward, for instance through the dominance of homophony. The cantus firmus is clearly audible, either in the soprano (Magnum nomen Domini) or the tenor (Resonet in laudibus).

Given that Pękiel was a composer of the 17th century and that other recordings of his works available show a different style, one may expect more 'baroque' compositions here. That that is not the case, as you will have understood from the description given above. This is music for lovers of renaissance polyphony. They should definitely consider this disc: this is fine music, and the performances are first class. Apparently the singers are not a fixed ensemble and have been brought together for the occasion. That has had no negative effect whatsoever: they sound as if they have sung as an ensemble for many years, as the voices blend perfectly and the balance between the voices is just right. The recording is also very good: there is enough space around the ensemble to create an acoustic in which this music can really blossom.

Johan van Veen


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing