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Bartłomiej PĘKIEL (d. ca 1666)
Choral Works - Volume 1
Missa Secunda [23:07]
Ave Maria [3:00]
Sub Tuum praesidium [1:53]
Assumpta est Maria [3:12]
Missa pulcherrima ad instar Praenestini [31:33]
Magnum nomen Domini [1:19]
Resonet in laudibus [1:21]
Aldona Bartnik (soprano), Matthew Venner (countertenor), Maciej Gocman (tenor), Tomas Kral (bass), Jaromir Nosek (bass)
Andrzej Kosendiak (conductor)
rec. 2015, National Forum of Music, Wrocław, Poland
CD ACCORD ACD222-2 [66:18]
Choral Works - Volume 2
Missa 14 [5:41]
Canon a 6 – Tres Camones Simul Cantantur [1:00]
Missa senza cerimonie I [7:33]
Canon a 6 – Aliud Sex Vocibus [1:22]
Missa paschalis [16:08]
Canon a 6 – Aliud Sex Vocibus [1:21]
Missa senza Le Cerimonie II [8:32]
Fugue [1:18]
Missa Concertata 'La Lombardesca' [16:59]
Marta Niedźwiecka (organ)
Wrocław Baroque Ensemble/Andrzej Kosendiak
rec. 2016, KGHM Main Hall, Witold Lutosławski National Forum of Music, Wrocław, Poland
CD ACCORD ACD240-2 [61:03]

I have already reviewed a pair of discs in this series, with the music of Marcin Mielczewski. This is a welcome continuation.

Very little is known for sure of Bartłomiej Pękiel’s, not even his date and place of birth. Some argue that, since his name also appears in the Germanic form of Perkel, he might in fact have been German. He was employed as musician and composer at the Polish royal court of Władysław IV Vasa, and was active between 1633 and 1664. He was once thought to have died a few years after leaving the royal service around 1670, but modern research now points to his death around 1666, possibly in Warsaw.

Musically, Pękiel was something of a transitional composer. He was equally gifted in renaissance polyphony and the grandeur of the baroque, as these discs show. The first volume is dedicated to his a cappella output. He demonstrates the mastery of the earlier style with the Kyrie of the Missa Secunda. It shows great skill and a demand for vocal dexterity that stands up to the greatest scrutiny. There follows the first of three Marian motets, a wonderful setting of the Ave Maria; the repetition of the somewhat sombre opening phrase soon gives way to more joyous writing. The Missa pulcherrima ad instar Praenestini, described in the notes as “The Most Beautiful Mass after Palestrina”, is thought to be the composer’s final work. It opens with a beautifully ethereal setting of the Kyrie, in which the soprano Aldona Bartnik enters for the first time. Her clear singing voice and wonderful diction add greatly to this music. This leads to an equally beautiful rendition of the Gloria, and the same can be said of the final two pieces on this disc, the settings of Christmas carols. Magnum nomen Domini has a feel of the well-known carol Gaudete, and indeed the word does appear in the Latin text, but there also are hints to the medieval tune. The second is the beautiful setting of Resonet in laudibus.

The second disc opens with the Missa 14. The difference is clear to hear: this was Pękiel’s second composition in the ‘modern style’. The Kyrie has a short instrumental introduction before the voices enter, still supported by the instrumentalists. There are elements of this shortened Mass setting that still point to the older style. The opening bass solo to the Gloria is pure plainchant. Sadly, these two parts of the mass are all that have come down to us, although the notes point to evidence that suggests that they are from a full Mass setting.

The Missa senza cerimonie I and II – the shortest masses recorded on these two discs – are masses for Ordinary Time. They were composed for services away from high days and the major celebrations of the church. The notes suggest that they might have even been composed with weekday masses in mind. They could come under the heading missa brevis despite their inclusion of all the elements of the longer sung masses. Here the Gloria and Credo are intoned with clarity, and the simple beauty is quite lovely. These two Masses are separated by the Missa paschalis, another beautiful setting, which as the name suggests, is a polyphonic setting of the mass for the Easter Tridium. The music is based upon traditional Polish Easter hymns, and the effect is memorable and pleasing.

The longest of the masses on this disc is the Missa Concertata ‘La Lombardesca’, perhaps the most baroque-sounding of all the masses here. The vocal line is set against the most elaborate of all the instrumental settings. This is a quite wonderful setting of the Mass, my favourite on this second disc. The disc also contains four instrumental pieces, which complement the vocal settings well. There is a set of three six-voice canons, which were first printed in Venice in 1643, and the Fuga for organ, the only surviving instrumental works by the composer. They are a most welcome addition.

These two discs offer a thorough survey of Bartłomiej Pękiel’s music, and his life, where available. The performances are excellent throughout. The vocalists of the Wrocław Baroque Ensemble deserve a special mention, especially for their performances on the first disc where they are most directly in the gaze of the listener; every syllable is clearly enunciated and beautifully conveyed. When called upon, the instrumentalists of the Ensemble are equally good; their playing in the three canons is fresh and light. I also enjoyed Marta Niedźwiecka’s performance of the Fuga for organ; a pity that no other organ music, and indeed any other instrumental music, has survived.

The recorded sound is excellent throughout. The acoustic only serves to heighten the listener’s enjoyment of this music. The booklet notes benefit from recent research. This is highly recommended, indeed essential, listening for any fan of the early baroque repertoire.

Stuart Sillitoe



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