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Marcin MIELCZEWSKI (d. 1651)
Volume 1
Triumphalis dies [5:07]
Laudate Dominum [5:14]
Audite et admiramini [4:55]
Currite populi [4:27]
Canzona prima a Tre [5:38]
Veni Domine [4:00]
Deus in nomine tuo [4:50]
Sub tuum praesidium [4:09]
Salve Virgo puerpera [4:39]
Canzona terza a Tre [2:52]
Vesperae dominicales [25:49]
Wrocław Baroque Ensemble/Andrzej Kosendiak
rec. 2016, Main Hall of the Witold Lutosławski National Forum of Music, Wrocław, Poland
CD ACCORD ACD227-2 [72:47]

Volume 2
Missa Triumphalis [6:19]
Canzona seconda a Due [5:16]
Dixit Dominus [4:17]
Laudate pueri [4:48]
Credidi [4:52]
Laetatus sum [4:41]
Nisi Dominus [6:07]
Lauda Jerusalem Dominum [6:32]
Vesperae dominicales [9:46]
Wrocław Baroque Ensemble/Andrzej Kosendiak
rec. 2017, Main Hall of the Witold Lutosławski National Forum of Music, Wrocław, Poland
CD ACCORD ACD248-2 [53:26]

I knew little music of the Polish baroque, so I am glad that this has changed due to the Polish company CD Accord. They have released a series of six CDs, two each devoted to a single composer. Those with the music of Marcin Mielczewski leave me wanting more.

The early life of Marcin Mielczewski is something of a mystery. His place and date of birth are unknown. Scholars think that he was born in 1605, give or take five years. His early musical life and education are also unknown. It is thought that in the 1620s he was in the service of the royal court of Sigismund III Vasa in Warsaw. He is known to have studied there with his kapellmeister Franciszek Lilius, an Italian who had studied with Frescobaldi. Mielczewski is also known to have moved to Kraków in 1630 with the rest of the royal court, where he is thought to have been employed as a musician, possibly a trombonist. He seems to have enjoyed the patronage of the Vasa family for most of his professional life. In 1645, he became the kapellmeister to Prince Charles Ferdinand Vasa, bishop of Płock, a city in central Poland. Mielczewski died in Warsaw in September 1651. He is known mainly for his liturgical music. Around sixty pieces came down to us complete, whilst there are about thirty other works in fragments, some of which have been arranged into performing versions for these recordings.

Mielczewski’s highly regarded music travelled widely, making him one of the best known and most influential Polish composers of the seventeenth century. His Italianate style was inspired by Lilius’s Italian travels and by the Italian musicians employed in the royal court, who brought with them music from their homeland which became popular at court. His music can be seen to be influenced by the Venetian composers, including the vespers style of Monteverdi and the music of the Gabrielis, which is clear from first hearing. However, Marcin Mielczewski also employed melodies of songs and dances, especially popular in Poland, and included them in his compositions. His music is mainly polyphonic, for more than one choir. Most of the pieces recorded here, however, are in the concertato style. He would use contrasting tempi, rhythms ant the character of the melody to build the music whilst allowing for the particular skills of the musicians and singers at hand to shine through.

Both discs contain musical gems which all devotees of baroque music will enjoy greatly. For example, the opening track of the first volume, Triumphalis dies, has Venetian-sounding declamation on trombones and strings followed by an intricate juxtaposition of male and female voices. It gets better. Currite populi – fast delivery of the opening stanza followed by more measured alternating sections – is exciting and memorable. I must single out the single-movement Deus in nomine tuo. Its slow introduction on organ, strings and bassoon is quite lovely. When the solo bass, Tomáš Král, enters singing “Save me, O God, by thy name”, the effect is brilliant. The final work on this disc, the wonderful Vesperae dominicales, is a set of five pieces. The opening Dixit Dominus begins with an intricate vocal line simply supported by the organ. The vocal line becomes simpler as solo singers highlight different aspects of the text, so the music becomes more interesting, with beautiful interjections by the rest of the musicians. The beauty of these vespers continues with three Psalm settings, and ends with a beautiful setting of the Magnificat, which once again displays some brilliant interplay between vocalists and instrumentalists. A superb disc. If you were looking to dip your toe in the water, I would recommend it.

Volume two also contains some brilliant music. It opens with the Kyrie and Gloria from the Missa Triumphalis, one of the composer’s most popular works during the seventeenth century. The Kyrie begins with a choral declamation supported by the instrumentalists. This is in contrast with the beginning of the Gloria. Its solo, almost cantor-like reciting of “Gloria in excelsis Deo” is swiftly followed by the entry of the choir and musicians in a sometimes complicated-sounding version of the rest of the text. Various solo vocalists are pitted against the rest of the choir and instrumentalist to a wonderful effect. Dixit Dominus begins, similarly to the Gloria, with a solo tenor canting the opening line before he is joined by the women of the choir and strings. Again the male voices enter, many in solo lines with the music interspersed with entries from the brass, a quite stunning setting of the Psalm. The presentation of Psalm 116, Credidi, propter quad locutus sum, opens with the organ. It is memorable by how the text has an echo effect, first in the tenors, then the basses and finally in the sopranos. It also has some nice solo parts for the countertenor Matthew Venner. Again, the final vocal piece on this disc is a setting of the Magnificat from the Vesperae dominicales. This is a super setting. The way Mielczewski juxtaposes the obligato vocal line against the musicians is quite lovely and memorable.

Each disc offers a pair of Canzonas, short instrumental pieces with various instrumentation. From solo violin and basso continuo in the Canzona seconda a Due to the inclusion of the sackbut in the Canzona seconda a Tre, these are little gems. Colourful and full of character, they are a welcome addition to these discs. The performers are in sparkling form.

These two discs are presented under the auspices of Andrzej Kosendiak. He guides his soloists and the Wrocław Baroque Ensemble superbly well. Their performances are excellent throughout. With well measured playing and excellent solos, one could hardly wish for more. I look forward to hearing more from Kosendiak and his ensemble. The performances are aided by excellent sound quality and acoustic. The booklet notes in Polish and English are exemplary. The sung Latin texts and full translations are included. These discs, highly recommended, are a must for those who seek to widen their baroque musical horizons.

Stuart Sillitoe

Soloists – Volume 1
Aldona Bartnik (soprano), Aleksandra Turalska (soprano), Matthew Venner (counter-tenor), Piotr Łykowski (counter-tenor), Maciej Gocman (tenor), Tomáš Lajtkep (tenor), Tomáš Král (bass), Jonathan Brown (bass), Jerzy Butryn (bass)



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