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Wojciech ŁUKASZEWSKI (1936-1978)
Pieśni Księżyca (Songs of the Moon)
Trois épisodes funèbres (1969) [8:05]
Catulli carmina (1967) [5:13]
I name you, sea (1965) [5:57]
Mazovia (1969) [5:16]
Millennium (1966) [3:52]
Songs of the Moon (1966) [15:37]
Folk triptych (1969) [5:04]
Song about the soldiers of Westerplatte (1969) [3:48]
Nike (1971) [8:57]
Ode on Gdánsk (1969) [14:55]
Anna Mikołajczyk-Miewiedział (soprano), Anna Malewicz-Madey (mezzo-soprano), Janusz Borowicz (baritone), Tomasz Stockinger (reciter)
Schola Cantorum Gedanensis
Camerata Vistula, Polish Radio Orchestra, Czętochowskie Symphonic Philharmonic Orchestra/Jan Łukaszewski, Tomasz Bugaj and Piotr Borkowski
rec. 1993-2005
French, Latin and Polish texts included; no translations
DUX 1483 [76:00]

This is not the Łukaszewki who has become tolerably well known outside Poland through his choral works. That is Pawel Lukaszewski, born in 1968 and still very much with us. Here instead we have Wojciech Łukaszewski, who was his father but who died relatively young. He was able to study under Nadia Boulanger, then returned to Poland and held many teaching positions and was obviously much valued in this capacity. He also found time to compose, chiefly vocal and choral works, of which we have a selection here.

Here we hit a problem. Apart from the opening work, which sets a Renaissance French text, and the second work, which sets two poems of Catullus (poem 1, the dedication, and poem 51, one of the Lesbia poems) the rest of the programme sets poems in Polish. Furthermore the booklet, though it prints the texts of the poems, offers no translations, so while I can cope with the French and Latin I know no Polish, and I imagine that it is a language known in English-speaking countries only to Polish communities; it is not taught in our schools. The booklet’s text does come in an English as well as a Polish version, but this is largely confined to informing the reader about the circumstances of the works’ composition, with virtually nothing about the contents of the poems chosen other than English versions of the titles. I shall therefore confine myself to some general remarks about the composer’s style.

He lived all his adult life under the Communist regime which for a long time discouraged knowledge of twentieth century Western European music, which meant that his idiom is basically conservative and traditional. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that on its own terms. He then was able to discover modernism and it seems to have gone to his head a bit: I can hear passages copied from Pierrot Lunaire, Le Marteau sans Maître, the Quatuor pour la fin du temps and other modernist classics. One work in which he seems to have integrated his influences is the first here. This sets three poems by Pontus de Tyard, a member of the Pléiade group around Ronsard, gloomy offerings about pain and death. It is set for solo soprano and orchestra and takes the form of declamatory writing for the voice alternating with orchestral interludes of very varying character. One or two are thunderous with percussion, one features a solo flute, another muted brass and so on. However, it makes a satisfactory whole and is, I think, the best work on the disc.

Most of the others are for a capella chorus, with a great deal of homophonic writing from which the occasional solo stands out. Two are for larger forces. Songs of the Moon, from which this disc takes its title, is for solo mezzo-soprano and reciter with an ensemble consisting of flute, oboe, xylophone, piano, percussion, violin, cello and doublebass. This makes pleasant noises but is rather obviously derivative from the Schoenberg and Boulez works I mentioned. Another slightly similar work is Ode on Gdánsk for solo baritone, reciter, solo clarinet, mixed choir and orchestra. The opening clarinet solo is a pale copy of that in the Messiaen Quatuor and there is also some use of the aleatoric techniques which were briefly fashionable at the time.

The performances seem carefully prepared and idiomatic, so far as I can judge. The recordings, made at various different dates and venues, tend to be rather resonant, which makes it difficult to distinguish the words even in the two languages I can follow. Furthermore, the soloists, particularly the soprano, tend to be recorded rather forward. The disc is packaged as for a SACD but I am not sure whether it is one; I was listening in ordinary two-channel stereo. I have already described the booklet. This is a disc for those with a particular interest in Polish music, and it will help if they know the language.

Stephen Barber



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