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Marcin KOPCZYŃSKI (b. 1973)
Przymykam oczy
Kamila Kułakowska (soprano); Anna Wilk (soprano); Wojciech Dyngosz (baritone);
Dorota Kuczyńska Dorota (piano); Marcin Kopczyński (piano)
Opera Nova Orchestra / Piotr Wajrak
rec. 2017 Concert Hall of the Bydgoszcz Academy of Music, Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Booklet included (Polish, English) Song texts (Polish or Latin (with Polish translations))

Acte Préalable is as active in promoting and preserving the present as it is in resurrecting the past. Each recording not only takes the listener on a musical journey, but cultural and geographical ones as well. Even if the music is not by a Polish composer, the performers are. There are cities and towns, a bit of Polish history and often the works of the country’s great poets to discover with each release.

Przymykam oczy (I close my eyes) features the works of the contemporary Polish composer Marcin Kopczyński. It is his third recording for the label, the others being Streams of consciousness (AP0186) and One man, a few shadows (AP0216). The prior discs featured a wide range of instrumental and vocal music that demonstrated his range as a composer. This disc is devoted solely to music for solo voice, a combination of settings of poems of Leopold Staff and sacred pieces.

Kopczyński was born in 1973 in Inowrocław , a city in north-central Poland, and received diplomas in composition and music theory from the Bydgoszcz Academy of Music, where he now teaches. Bydgoszcz lies to the southwest of Inowrocław and is a regional cultural center, especially for classical music. In addition to the Academy, the city is home to the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Pomeranian Philharmonic and Opera Nova. All of the musicians heard on the recording have ties to the Academy; most were trained there.

Leopold Staff (1878 – 1957) is a poet whose works have long inspired Kopczyński. Often ranked as the greatest Polish poet of the early twentieth century, Staff rose to prominence as a member of the Young Poland Movement and would go on to publish over 30 volumes of poetry in his lifetime. He lived in Warsaw during World War II, a witness to the city’s near total destruction by the Nazis. In the 1950s when his country was in the iron grip of the Soviet Union, Staff’s stylistic evolution drew him to blank verse keeping pace with the Polish avant-garde.

The songs that Kopczyński chose for this recording are settings of poems that find the poet in an elegiac and wistful mood. They explore the ephemeral and supernatural as well as love. The exception is ‘Ars consolatrix’ (‘Art consoling’) that borders on the lascivious with its description of ‘luscious, young virgin breasts.’ (Let’s hope Google Translate didn’t lead me astray on that one.)

The crystalline-voiced soprano, Anna Wilik opens the disc with ‘Więc można kochać’ (‘So we can love') and ‘Wróżba’ (‘The Augury’), accompanied by the composer. In both songs Kopczyński employs a conversational approach in setting the vocal line with the piano establishing the mood and supplying much of the drama with fanfare-like interjections in the former and the dramatic extended prelude of the latter that ushers in the voice in a swirling, ascending decrescendo.

Wilik and Kopczyński are also heard in three settings of Marian texts for voice and piano. The first, ‘Felix namque es, sacra Virgo Maria’ (‘Happy indeed you are, Holy Virgin Mary’), dates from medieval times. Its plainchant melody was used in fifteenth-century vocal compositions and in English organ settings in the sixteenth century. Kopczyński’s setting is light, jaunty and dancelike, capturing the joy inherent in the text.

The other two songs are ‘Omnipotens sempiterne Deus’ (‘Almighty, everlasting God’) which is sung after the ‘Salve Regina’ and ‘Tota Formosa et suavis, Filia Sion’ (‘You are most beautiful and merciful, Daughter of Sion’) from the office for the Feast of the Assumption. In ‘Omnipotens sempiterne Deus’, Kopczyński employs a chant-like melody sung to a chordal accompaniment that is repeated and developed in the piano interludes.

He brings a more songlike approach to ‘Tota Formosa et suavis, Filia Sion’ with its exuberant, extended refrain on the prayer’s closing ‘Alleluia’. Throughout, Wilik etches the musical line with clarity and captures the subtle variations in mood and tempi that Kopczyński employs.

Baritone Wojciech Dyngosz is heard in five other Staff settings. The first, ‘Przymykam oczy Kłamstwo’, from which the recording takes its name, is scored for string accompaniment, here performed by the excellent Opera Nova Orchestra under the baton of Piotr Wajrak. It is a song of despair and betrayal set in the declamatory style that Kopczyński often employs.

‘Ars consolatrix’ is the song with the bawdy text. Another composer, take Maurice Ravel for example, might have employed more romance and perhaps even humour in setting the poem, but Kopczyński opts for mystery and passion.

Dyngosz is the perfect exponent of Kopczyński’s declamatory style with his dark-hued baritone, that is easy on the ear with climaxes that ring out and gently caressed pianissimos. Pianist Dorota Kuczyńska Dorota is the fine pianist, equally delving into the emotion and the passion of the songs

The final work is Dico ego opera mea Regi (‘I will say these verses to the King’) Op.69, a solo cantata in three movements for soprano and string orchestra. The title comes from Psalm 45, the first two verses of which serve as the text of the middle movement. For the first Kopczyński chose lines from the Song of Solomon, and he concluded the work with a setting of the Sanctus, or the ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ of the Mass.

Opus 69 brings to mind the music of the mid-twentieth century American Neo-Romantic composers, especially that of Samuel Barber, in the spaciousness and depth of the string sound that Kopczyński achieves. It is also the work that best demonstrates his affinity with minimalism through his repetitive rhythms and reiteration of musical motifs and melodies.

Soprano Kamila Kułakowska is the soloist accompanied by the strings of the Opera Nova Orchestra again conducted by Wajrak. She too is a lyric soprano with an exceptionally fresh voice and vibrant clear tone. Clear enunciation of the text is difficult in the upper ranges of her voice in which she is frequently called upon to sing, but fine dynamic shadings are displayed throughout. In the last movement all get some fun passages to perform with voice and strings executing rapid pizzicato passages and the stirring buildup to the final ‘Hosanna in excelsis!’

Rick Perdian

Więc można kochać Op.59 (2012) [4:22]
Wróżba Op.62 (2013) [5:58]
Felix namque es, sacra Virgo Maria Op.71 (2015) [5:25]
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus Op.66 (2014) [4:15]
Tota Formosa et suavis es Op.50 (2009) [3:48]
Przymykam oczy Op.68 (2014) [4:07]
Kłamstwo Op.56/2 (2011) [4:08]
Ars consolatrix Op.43/2 (2007) [3:49]
Wymowa Op.43/3 (2007) [5:32]
Jak groźnie, jak surowo przemawiasz do mnie, Panie Op.72 (2015) [4:11]
Dico ego opera mea Regi Op.69 (2015) [17:07]



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