ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Polska! a Celebration of Polish Music
WORKS: Totus tuus; Six Kurpian Songs; String Quartet No. 3; Seven Polish Hymns; Agnus Dei
PERFORMER: BBC Singers/Bo Holten; Penderecki String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 88021 CD DDD
The BBC’s recent Polska! season did sterling work in bringing unknown Polish works to the attention of a wider public; this disc continues the process. There’s more to Górecki than the Third Symphony; and happily some of it feels rather less vapid. Totus tuus is a lovely ten-minute, Orthodox-tinged piece written for Pope John Paul’s Polish visit of 1987 and ideally suited to the BBC Singers, who make a rare sortie here onto disc. Shifting dynamics and inner balances are handled more subtly than on the obvious Argo rival, whose Czech forces audibly overstretch the work.
Szymanowski’s charming Kurpian folksongs call for a Poulenc-like sparkle and wit: despite a Slav-style tenor’s efforts, the idiom is lacking here. The readings are lugubrious, there is more than a hint of the old BBC wobble, and words get smudged. But seven 16th-century, madrigal-like sacred miniatures by Waclaw z Szamotul are delightfully managed, with the Polish words crystal clear. Penderecki’s gentle concluding funeral tribute to Cardinal Wyszinski, Agnus Dei, neatly updates the disc.
Star turn is the folk-imbued Third Quartet of Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-69). Somewhere between Ravel and the still-neglected quartets of our own Elizabeth Maconchy, this rhythmically charged work is given a beautifully honed recording by the Penderecki Quartet, less gritty than the Wilanow’s on Olympia. An imaginative record, worth considering. Roderic Dunnett