PERFORMER: Iwona Hossa (soprano), Agnieszka Rehlis (mezzo-soprano), Piotr Kusiewicz (tenor), Piotr Nowacki, Gennady Bezzubenkov (bass); Warsaw Boys’ Choir; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572031
Something of a sleeping giant in Penderecki’s output, Utrenja is a sequel in more ways than one to the better-known St Luke Passion.
It was written soon after it, in 1970 and ’71, and it reflects on the events following the Crucifixion: its two parts are called respectively ‘The Entombment of Christ’ and ‘The Resurrection of Christ’. But the texts here are mostly in Old Slavonic, culled by Penderecki from Orthodox Easter liturgies – an early sign of his long engagement with Russian church tradition.
As for the music, it inhabits the dramatic sound-world of early Penderecki: sustained clusters, slides, free-time ‘crowd scenes’, extremes of register and dynamics, sudden percussion outbursts – shock tactics, in short, among which not the least shocking is the sudden consonance of Orthodox-style choral chanting.
In the hands of Antoni Wit’s expert Warsaw forces and a fine solo line-up, it all makes a powerful effect, sombre in its Easter Saturday lamentation and wildly joyful in its Easter Day celebration. Anthony Burton