Program: #17-41, Air Date: 10/02/17The Wroclaw Baroque gives us three superb new recordings of Polish music of the early Baroque era.
NOTE: All of the recordings on this program feature the Wroclaw Baroque Ensemble directed by Andrej Kosendiak. These recordings are part of the NFM funded projects (the National Forum of Music in Wroclaw): www.nfm.wroclaw.pl/
About Andrej Kosendiak:
Director of the National Forum of Music, artist, conductor and pedagogue, Andrzej Kosendiak has earned an enviable reputation as one of the most active and committed musicians and organizers of music life in Poland. He graduated from the Department of Composition, Conducting and Music Theory of Wrocław Music Academy. In 2013 he obtained the academic degree of doctor habilitatus. For many years he taught at his Alma Mater, where in 2001-2009 he was head of the Cross-Department Early Music Studies. Since 2014 he has been Professor at the S. Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk. In 2005 he became Director of the Wrocław Philharmonic and the International Festival Wratislavia Cantans.
He soon reformulated the profile of both organizations and successfully led them to their merger in 2014 into one performing arts organization - the National Forum of Music. Upon his initiative, construction works of the new venue of the National Forum of Music were commenced, and he is now the coordinator of this state-of-the-art concert hall development. Andrzej Kosendiak’s efforts led to the establishment of Society of Polish Philharmonics, of which he is now chair for the second term of office.
Of the National Forum of Music artistic ensembles, many were founded upon Andrzej Kosendiak’s initiative: NFM Choir, Wrocław Baroque Orchestra, NFM Boys’ Choir, and he also contributed to the founding of Polish National Youth Choir. Andrzej Kosendiak founded the festivals Forum Musicum and Leo Festival. Thanks to his efforts, in 2013 the Wrocław Philharmonic organized the 27th Congress of the International Society for the Performing Arts, attended by around 400 delegates and guests from all over the world. He is one of the authors of academies of early music held annually in Wrocław, combining concerts with master classes (Bach Academy in 2014 and Handel Academy in 2015). Andrzej Kosendiak has launched several educational projects: Singing Wrocław, Singing Poland, and Mummy, Daddy Sing to Me. He is one of the authors of Muzyka w Mieście monthly, issued since 2012 by the National Forum of Music.
Andrzej Kosendiak put forward the idea of recording the complete works of Witold Lutosławski – in the Opera Omnia series six albums have been released so far. Another initiative is 1000 Years of Music in Wrocław, presenting the musical heritage of our city. Thanks to his commitment, the phonographic project of Paul McCreesh and the NFM Choir is now under way, recording the greatest oratorios in music history. The discs released so far have won prestigious awards: BBC Music Magazine Award (twice), Diapason d’Or de l’Année and Gramophone Editor’s Choice.
Early music is of particular interest to Andrzej Kosendiak: in 1985 he founded Collegio di Musica Sacra and has directed the ensemble ever since. They have given concerts in many European countries, as well as the US (including collaboration with Chapel Hill University NC), appearing at the most prestigious festivals and concert venues across Poland. His recording catalogue includes rediscovered music from Wrocław University Library – Musica da chiesa (DUX), and from Strasbourg Library - F. X Richter: 'Missa Pastorale', Dixit, Magnificat (CYPRES) as well as A. M. Bononcini’s Stabat Mater (DUX). 2012 and 2014 saw the release of two discs with works by G. G. Gorczycki (CD Accord) directed by Andrej Kosendiak. The first disc was awarded Wrocław Music Prize and nominated for Fryderyk Award. As a conductor he gives regular concerts with the NFM Symphony Orchestra and Choir, as well as Wrocław Baroque Orchestra and philharmonic ensembles across Poland. Over the recent years he has conducted Haydn’s The Creation, Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Mass in C minor and Requiem, Bach’s Mass in B flat minor and both Passions (initiating years ago a tradition of performing these works in Wrocław during the Holy Week), Fauré’s Requiem, and Britten’s Saint Nicolas.
I. Pekiel—Missa Secunda, etc. Accord CD ACD 222-2; NFM 30.
1. Kyrie 00:02:21
2. Gloria 00:05:16
3. Credo 00:09:05
4. Sanctus 00:03:06
5. Agnus Dei 00:03:20
6. Ave Maria 00:03:00
7. Sub tuum praesidium 00:01:54
8. Assumpta est Maria 00:03:13
Missa pulcherrima ad instar Praenestini
9. Kyrie 00:04:11
10. Gloria 00:06:36
11. Credo 00:10:51
12. Sanctus 00:05:53
13. Agnus Dei 00:04:03
14. Magnum nomen Domini 00:01:19
15. Resonet in laudibus 00:01:21
II. Marcin Mielczewski Accord CD ACD 227-2; NFM 34.
From Andrej Kosendiak:
Recently I have been experiencing a renewed fascination with the works of 17th and 18th century composers with whom I first became acquainted on the outset of my artistic path. (...)
During preparations for this recording I was torn between the availability of knowledge about the works in question and the sensibilities of a performer living in the second decade of the 21st century. The idea of performing Mielczewski’s vespers (Vesperae dominicales) in the way they were performed in larger and richer centres like Gdansk or Wroclaw in the second half of the 17th century seemed highly appealing. (...)
In the double choir works I was particularly mindful of the ensembles’ spatial arrangement (placed opposite each other) and that it be reflected in the sound of the recording. For space plays an exceptionally vital role in Mielczewski’a works written in the spirit of the Venetian polychoral tradition.(...) The acoustics of the NFM offer fantastic opportunities of realising the composer’s spatial concepts.(...)
For this recording I invited a group of artists with whom I work regularly. We all share a fascination for early Polish music and an understanding of its repertoire, which allows us to be mutually inspired in the preparation and performance of these musical works.
From Stephen Midgeley: There have been a few previous recordings of collections of Polish baroque music, some of which have featured the work of Marcin Mielcewski quite prominently. However, this is the first disc I have come across consisting exclusively of this eminent Polish composer's music, and it demonstrates once again that Mielczewski (c. 1605-1651) is more than worthy of this renewed attention.
The programme consists of two instrumental works and thirteen motets, the last five of which form a Vesperae Dominicales sequence. The music is performed by an extremely talented Polish early-music group, Wroclaw Baroque Ensemble, consisting of thirteen voices and a substantial band of period string, wind and continuo instruments. They are very ably directed by Andrzej Kosendiak.
The motets are largely declamatory in nature, very reminiscent of the late Venetian style of Monteverdi and his contemporaries, with double-choir passages interspersed with beautiful, elaborate and adventurous sections for solo and concerted voices. These are accompanied by a variety of instruments with occasional independent instrumental interludes which, in the Monteverdian manner, are powerful and distinctive. Textures in the larger-scale works are occasionally heavy, but are frequently relieved by smaller-scale passages for soloists. The latter are most beautifully performed here, with all voices pure, clear and stylish and with especially distinguished soprano and bass contributions. Instrumental players also do outstanding work, with some lovely and sometimes very demanding passages for violins, cornetti, bassoon and trombones.
All the works are very fine and it's hard to pick out favourites, but I especially appreciated the solo and concertato vocal work from sopranos and bass in 'Veni Domine' (track 6) as well as all five motets forming the closing 'Vesperae Dominicales' sequence (11-15).
Recorded sound is first-class, as are production values for the handsome accompanying booklet. This includes very full notes on Mielczewski's career, music and connections, as well as excellent session photos of singers, players and director; and, of course, texts and translations. If you like the Venetian baroque, you are almost bound to appreciate the music of this outstanding Polish composer.
1. Triumphalis dies 00:05:07
2. Laudate Dominum 00:05:14
3. Audite et admiramini 00:04:55
4. Currite populi 00:04:27
5. Canzona primna a 3 00:05:38
6. Veni Domine 00:04:00
7. Deus in nomine tuo 00:04:50
8. Sub tuum praesidium 00:04:09
9. Salve Virgo puerpera 00:04:39
10. Canzona terza a 3 00:02:52
Vesperae dominicales (arr. R. Gilmour for vocal ensemble and chamber ensemble)
11. Dixit Dominus 00:04:00
12. Confitebor 00:06:29
13. Beatus vir 00:05:02
14. Laudate pueri 00:05:11
15. Magnificat 00:05:07
III. Pekiel—Missa a 14, etc. Accord CD ACD 240-2; NFM 44.
Missa a 14
1. Kyrie 00:02:25
2. Gloria 00:03:16
3. Canon a 6: Tres canones simul cantantur 00:01:00
Missa senza cerimonie I
4. Kyrie 00:00:48
5. Gloria 00:01:05
6. Credo 00:01:59
7. Sanctus 00:02:00
8. Agnus Dei 00:01:41
9. Canon a 6: Aliud: Sex vocibus I 00:01:22
10. Kyrie 00:01:47
11. Gloria 00:03:35
12. Credo 00:07:03
13. Sanctus 00:01:37
14. Agnus Dei 00:02:06
15. Canon a 6: Aliud: Sex vocibus II 00:01:21
Missa senza le cerimonie II
16. Kyrie 00:00:40
17. Gloria 00:01:30
18. Credo 00:02:51
19. Sanctus 00:02:18
20. Agnus Dei 00:01:13
21. Fugue 00:01:18
Missa La Lombardesca
22. Kyrie 00:02:33
23. Gloria 00:04:02
24. Credo 00:06:55
25. Sanctus 00:02:21
26. Agnus Dei 00:01:08
During the transition from Renaissance to Baroque that began around 1600, contemporary musicians developed terms to capture the distinction — stile antico and stile moderno. To a date that runs surprisingly late into the seventeenth century, there were a number of composers that worked readily in both, and to that company belongs the little-known Polish musician Bartholomiej Pekiel, subject of CDAccord’s “Bartholomiej Pekiel II,” featuring the Wroclaw Baroque Ensemble under the direction of Andrzej Kosendiak.
The date of Pekiel’s birth is not known, and of the sources that I reviewed, the only one brave enough to even venture a guess placed it ca. 1610, based on chronology and the nature of his professional appointments. The historical record is silent on Pekiel until 1637, where he is listed as an organist in the service of Wladislaw IV Vasa, a position which may have gone back to Wladislaw’s installation as regent in 1633.
If one were to search for a picture of Pekiel the regal gent below would turn up; this is a Rubens portrait of Wladislaw, patron of Pekiel. While he never regained the crown of Sweden once held by his great-great-grandfather — Gustav Vasa, “the father of Sweden” — as he had desired, Wladislaw was no piker; he won the Smolensk War against the Russians and defeated the Ottoman Empire in the course of defending the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that he led. Pekiel was named vice-Kapellmeister to the King in the 1640s, but did not move into the top job until just after the Wladislaw’s death in 1648, when the Italian master that held this position decided to leave.
Pekiel’s new boss was John Casimir II Vasa, and under his watch the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth began to falter, owing to freshly renewed invasions from Sweden and Russia. Pekiel was forced out of his post in 1655 when the entire Royal family fled Warsaw in the face of the Swedish “Deluge,” as it is known.
In 1658, Pekiel was named Kapellmeister at Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, though it appears that he left this position in 1664 to rejoin the Royal Court at Warsaw. In a recently discovered church document, Pekiel’s death in 1666 is alluded to; two years later, John II Casimir Vasa stepped down from the Polish throne, and the Commonwealth to which Bartholomiej Pekiel devoted a lifetime of service lay in ruins.
In their relentless sacking of Poland, the Swedes and Russians carried away most of Poland’s cultural treasures to that time, and as a result most of Pekiel’s considerable body of work has been recovered from foreign sources. He left 14 mass settings of which the Missa Pulcherrima is most famous; longer masses of this kind are examined in an earlier installment of this series, “Bartholomiej Pekiel,” issued by CDAccord in July of 2016. This disc consists mainly of shorter mass settings.
The Missa a 14 (i.e. “Mass in 14 parts”) contains only a Kyrie and Gloria though this would not be considered “incomplete,” as such settings were usually filled out by chant or mass movements from elsewhere; medieval manuscripts offer a rich variety of anonymous Gloria-Credo pairs that were considered complete in their day.
This and the Missa Concertata La Lombardesca are examples of Pekiel’s work in the stilo moderno, and utilize strings and brass. These demonstrate Pekiel’s mastery of the Italian manner, whether he learnt it from his immediate supervisor in Warsaw or from studying in Italy in the unknown, early part of his career, as has been suggested. Pekiel got the memo, but his method of interpreting its meaning is entirely original.
The works in stile antico — which dominate this program — are very arresting, and at times, thrilling. In the Missa Senza Le Ceremonie II — a work used on ordinary Sundays, or in services through the week — there is a constant sense of suspense; Pekiel is spading up new earth with each new section while an insistent, madrigal-like rhythm holds it all together. You never know where it’s going to land, but it never leaves the listener behind. Pekiel displays a wide variety of vocal entrances; in the Missa Concertata La Lombardesca these range from wispy fragments of text that trail alongside the instruments to sudden, massive buildups of voices that come from out of nowhere.
In sum, as familiar as one may be with Renaissance or Baroque choral music, if you haven’t heard Pekiel, you haven’t heard this. “Vasa” is the name of a type of ship as well, and Kosendiak runs a tight one. The singers in the Wroclaw Baroque are very alert, and have to be, because in many places Pekiel demands that you enter in an odd place in the texture with little clue as to where. The package is handsomely bound in a crush-proof, textured case a little larger than a standard CD container, and contain good notes, multi-lingual texts and plenty of session photos. One might like a bit more of
The package is handsomely bound in a crush-proof, textured case a little larger than a standard CD container, and contain good notes, multi-lingual texts and plenty of session photos. One might like a bit more of sense of separation between voices and instruments, but this is a very honest perspective on how the music would sound in performance, so that’s not really a problem. Each mass setting is separated by a short Pekiel canon or fugue to help distinguish between them, but I found myself skipping these brief tracks in order to access the vocal music more readily.
Marcin Mielcewski (c. 1605-1651), Bartholomiej Pekiel,
CD ACD 222-2; NFM 30, CD ACD 227-2; NFM 34, CD ACD 240-2; NFM 44