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COMPOSERS: Bogurodzica
LABELS: Metronome
WORKS: Polish medieval music
PERFORMER: Anna Mikolajczyk (soprano), Robert Lawaty (countertenor), Cezary Szyfman (baritone); vocal ensemble, Ars Nova/Jacek Urbaniak
For those who think that Polish music began with Chopin this will be a revelation. Here we have works going back to at least the 13th century. First, a collection of plainsong hymns to various local saints; then a group of beautiful, melismatic sequences; and finally a group of polyphonic works, mostly from the 15th century. The CD opens with the title piece, ‘Bogurodzica’, which is the earliest surviving Polish song. It was used as a battle hymn, but is rather lamely performed here, apparently because it is also a supplication to the Virgin Mary (the texts in the booklet are given only in Polish or Latin). Some of the best music comes in the collection of sequences – the soprano Anna Mikolajczyk glides wonderfully across the rapturous contours of ‘Psallat chorus in hac die’, and the men, accompanied by instruments, conjure up some flickering harmonic tensions in the melodic lines of ‘Fulget dies’. The instrumentalists are a little cautious but can be effective, as in ‘Verba buccinate’. The 15th-century vocal works are, owing to some poor intonation, less successful, but the performance of ‘Badz wiesiola’ (whose words seem best pronounced by opening a lemonade bottle slowly) is reverential and quietly moving. Anthony Pryer