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Polska Muzyka Chóralna (Polish Choral Music)
Polski Chór Kameralny / Jan Łukaszewski
rec. 2018, Archdiocesan Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy, Gdańsk, Poland
DUX 1505 [67:25]

I find that it often pays to be adventurous when it comes to unusual repertoire, and it certainly has on this occasion. Of the seven composers featured on this disc, only two were known to me, but that has made no difference when it comes to this highly enjoyable and evocative disc, one to sit back and enjoy. Yes, you might, like me, know only the music of Kilar and Penderecki, but don’t let that put you off as there is plenty to savour here. The only drawback is that there are no texts in either Polish or English for the listener to follow and therefore understand what is being sung. However, when the music and the performance are this good this is soon forgiven.

The disc opens with Unitis viribus by Andrzej Koszewski, and what a wonderful way it is to begin. This is a composer new to me and his music has a lot I find attractive, such as the way he splits the choir in the opening ‘Crux-lux’, so that the lower voices act like a drone for the higher voices is quite beautiful and ethereal. This is followed Anima Christi by Paweł Łukaszewski, a composer of whom the notes tell us that whilst he has achieved some success with instrumental music, his name is most associated with choral music. The piece presents several independent sections sung together to produce a melismatic effect which is striking in its rhythmic intensity.

Juliusz Łuciuk’s Apocalypsis differs from the other pieces on this disc in the way that he employs soloists. In the five pieces that make up this piece no less than six solo voices are used with the soloist at times emerging, as it were, out of the choir before fading back in to the body of the choir. He also in other places in the work pits the soloist against the chorus and then in other places, such as in the second movement ‘Teneramente’ he seems to use the solo voice as a sort of cantor with the rest of the choir following their lead, this is where the text would be most beneficial, so that you could see exactly who is singing what. The use of differing vocal effects both by the soloists and the choir make this a very interesting work and one of my favourite pieces on the disc.

Despite Wojciech Kilar’s being most often remembered as a composer of film music, especially in the west, he composed some splendid choral music, for example his imposing Missa Pro Pace (DUX 0434) or the wonderful Hymn Paschalny (DUX 0781); both these works display the composer’s skill at setting music for the voice. This short piece is no different, with its repeated phrases forming at times a kind of bass line with a higher line singing a separate and different line above, to quite wonderful effect.

Edward Pałłasz’s Et… is perhaps the most complex of the works featured on this disc. It calls for the choir to employ different techniques throughout the piece, including some sustained drone-like notes, over which different sections of the choir sing different lines in different styles, including a section of almost ‘plainchant’ singing. This all adds up to this piece being the most modern sounding, and in many ways, the most exciting work featured here.

I think that my favourite piece on this disc, however, is the meditation W górze nad nami by Augustyn Bloch which was composed just three years before his death in 2006. Here again Bloch uses a variety of vocal techniques, including melisma, but it is the way that he also uses the organ to great effect that is impressive and despite Sebastian Wilczewski not being called upon to do anything especially elaborate, his contribution is powerful and helps the overwhelming meditative feel of this work.

The disc concludes with the very short My też pastuszkowie by Krzysztof Penderecki, which is a real contrast to all the other pieces presented here, in that it sounds quite old-fashioned and even folk-like in comparison to the other works.

As already mentioned, the singing of the Polski Chór Kameralny is wonderful throughout; they excel in the solo parts as well as the choral, and the overall feeling is one of enjoyment on their behalf, something which comes through in their singing. They are recorded supremely well with the result being a detailed and crystal-clear recording. The drawback is the booklet, without texts which are definitely needed and no link that I could find on the website to them either. The brief booklet notes, in Polish and English, are good, if a little academic, but don’t let that put you off, because the music and the singing can be enjoyed even when you don’t understand what is being sung.

Stuart Sillitoe

Andrzej KOSZEWSKI (1922-2015)
Unitis viribus for mixed choir a cappella (2002) words: aphorism in Latin
1. Crux-Lux [3:11]
2. Ad multos annos [2:24]
Paweł ŁUKASZEWSKI (b. 1968)
3. Anima Christi na chór mieszany a cappella | for mixed choir a cappella (2018) [4:49]
Juliusz ŁUCIUK (b. 1927)
Apocalypsis for soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and mixed choir (1985)
4. Festivo [5:25]
5. Misterioso con dolcezza [2:55]
6. Teneramente [2:31]
7. Espressivo molto [4:53]
8. Gioioso sonore [2:19]
Wojciech KILAR (1932-2013)
9. Lumen na chór mieszany a cappella | for mixed choir a cappella (2011) [5:16]
Edward PAŁŁASZ (b. 1936)
10. Et... na 24 głosy | for 24 voices (2013) [13:38]
słowa | words: Apokalipsa św. Jana, Rozdział 20: 11-15 Book of Revelation by St. John, Chapter 20: 11-15
Augustyn BLOCH (1929-2006)
11. W górze nad nami medytacje na 4 soprany, 4 alty, 4 tenory, 4 basy i organy meditations for 4 sopranos, 4 altos, 4 tenors, 4 basses and organs (2003) [17:36]
Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b. 1933)
12. My też pastuszkowie na chór mieszany a cappella | for mixed choir a cappella (2015) [1:50]

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