ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI - Credo


KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI - Credo - Antoni Wit (Conductor) - Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra - Iwona Hossa (Soprano) - Aga Mikolaj (Soprano) - Ewa Wolak (Alto) - Rafal Bartminski (Tenor) - Remigiusz Lukomski (Bass) - 747313203277 - Naxos 8.572032

The artistic and music directors at Naxos have been strong supporters and promoters (I believe this to be the 14th recording of his music in their catalogue) of the music of Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-), an important and imposing figure in the artistic life of Poland, and in fact one of the most imposing figures in present day music. He is one of the present day composers to have received the most awards and honors in various fields. And even now, at the age of 76, he is still very actively involved in the creation and performance of music, so much so that he will be conducting some of his own works in China, during concerts scheduled for mid-October 2010. He made a name for himself in the 1960s with the composition of 'Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima', a very modern and forward-looking work. But gradually, ever since, Penderecki has been looking back. He has been consciously retrograding. He himself admitted that "experimentation and formal speculation, are more destructive than constructive." Beautiful writing like what we hear in the Crucem tuam adoramus, Domine segment of this Credo, would not have come to be had he not come to that realization.

This Naxos release is an important recording and impressive account of this work. There is only one other recording of this 1998 composition, which was released about ten years ago by the commissioners of the work. It is written for five singers, choir, boy's choir and orchestra. It is full of plaintive gestures, evocative imagery and powerful statements, and bears more kinship to similar works written 100 years ago than to today's music. The writing is very well proportioned between the soloists, choral segments and orchestral forces, with many fine passages when all of these elements combine to form some impressive moments. Some of the gripping orchestral passages point forward to his own 'Horn Concerto' from 2008. If it wasn't for the text, I myself would view and consider this as a Requiem for the 20th century. It is a 50 minute work with never a dull moment. The other work on this CD is a 6 minute Cantata from his avant garde phase during the 60s. It is a strong work in its own way, and gives us a chance to compare the two opposing poles that define Penderecki's output. You can be the judge as to which of his styles communicates strongest.

Conductor Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra are truly in their element here. Everything they've recorded in collaboration with Naxos over the last few years has been tremendously well done, and captured in state-of-the-art sound. The soloists, the two sopranos Iwona Hossa and Aga Mikolaj, alto Ewa Wolak, tenor Rafal Bartminski and bass Remigiusz Lukomski, could not have been better selected for their strong participation, and perceptible devotion to the inherent content and substance of this challenging work.

Jean-Yves Duperron - October 2010