The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra perform Penderecki

'The music is attractive but never obvious'

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COMPOSERS: Penderecki
ALBUM TITLE: Penderecki
WORKS: A sea of dreams did breathe on me…
PERFORMER: Olga Pasichnyk (soprano), Ewa Marciniec (mezzo), Jaros√aw Bre˛k (baritone); Warsaw Philharmonic Choir; Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.573062


Commissioned for the final concert of the Chopin bicentenary celebrations in Warsaw five years ago, Penderecki’s extended song-cycle takes time to establish its connection with the great Polish composer himself. But several numbers in the final section are drawn from Cyprian Norwid’s celebrated poem Chopin’s Piano, in which Poland’s sufferings are symbolised by the fate of the composer’s piano – thrown out of a first-floor window by tsarist troops – and which also invokes in the enduring spirit of his music itself.

This is the most monumental section of a work that right from the almost impressionistic lightness of its opening lives up to its subtitle, ‘Songs of reflection and nostalgia’. Arranged with gathering intensity, the 21 numbers comprising the cycle are all drawn from Romantic and contemporary Polish poetry, much as German poems served as the foundation of Penderecki’s Eighth Symphony of 2005.

Scored for soprano, mezzo, baritone, chorus and orchestra, the music is attractive but never obvious; as the tone darkens, especially in some of the baritone solos, the music almost recalls the vocal settings of late Shostakovich. The mezzo is heard first, and Ewa Marciniec sings warmly, yet it is perhaps Olga Pasichnyk who makes the most moving impression with her searing soprano. Antoni Wit and his Warsaw Philharmonic forces once again serve the composer strongly. The work can also be recommended as an attractive anthology of Polish poetry: Adam Mickiewicz, no less, is included, but fewer listeners will be familiar with Tadeusz Mici´nski, from whose lines the piece draws its title.


John Allison