WORKS: Credo; Cantata in honorem Almae Matris Universitatis Iagellonicae sescentos abhinc annos fundantae
PERFORMER: Iwona Hossa, Aga Mikolaj (soprano), Ewa Wolak (alto), Rafal Bartminski (tenor), Remigiusz Lukomski (bass); Warsaw Boys’ Choir; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572032
Krzysztof Penderecki’s many detractors routinely accuse the now senior Polish composer of having retreated into an unadventurous and conservative musical language. But it is a style that has served him well, especially in his choral writing.
As this effective new recording of the Credo shows, religious music – perhaps reflecting religion itself – is not necessarily the most progressive of genres. Coming in a long line of large-scale choral works, the Credo (commissioned for the 1998 Oregon Bach Festival) is clearly a satisfying piece to sing, and the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Warsaw Boys’ Choir seize their opportunities gratefully.
Divided into nine sections, the 50-minute score is full of powerful and vivid devices. As a setting of just the central part of the liturgical Mass, it is music that reflects Poland’s deeply ingrained and instinctive Catholicism. In charge of the Warsaw Philharmonic and big vocal forces, Antoni Wit conducts with authoritative fervour, bringing out the dark, brass-heavy colour.
The soprano Iwona Hossa leads a well-balanced vocal quintet, though Ewa Wolak still stands out for her alto solos. As a reminder of Penderecki’s earlier, avant-garde style, the short Cantata in honorem Almae Matris, composed in 1964 for the 600th anniversary of Kraków’s Jagellonian University, receives an arresting performance. John Allison