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Stephen Layton and Polyphony in seven UK premieres together with Paweł Łukaszewski’s mass devoted to Pope John Paul II

Joy and Devotion - Polyphony, Stephen Layton - Church of St Martin in the Fields (Photo courtesy of Adam Mickiewicz Institute)
Pleasure and Devotion – Polyphony, Stephen Layton
Church of St Martin within the Fields (Photograph courtesy of Adam Mickiewicz Institute)

Pleasure and Devotion: Wojciech Kilar, Michał Ziółkowski, Marcin Łukaszewski, Stanisław Moryto, Miłosz Bembinow, Marian Borkowski, Dariusz Przybylski, Paweł Łukaszewski; Polyphony, Stephen Layton, Rupert Jeffcoat; Church of St Martin within the Fields.
Reviewed 8 November 2022 (★★★★)

Seven UK premieres on this exceptional survey of latest Polish sacred music, transferring between the profoundly transferring, the remarkably intense and the dramatically devotional

Pleasure & Devotion is a pageant celebrating Polish music which is introduced by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute (with the assist of the Polish Ministry of Tradition). Having debuted in 2021, the pageant has returned to the church of St Martin within the Fields for a sequence of concert events this week, below creative director Paweł Łukaszewski. The pageant opened on 8 November 2022, with Stephen Layton conducting Polyphony, with organist Rupert Jeffcoat, in a programme of latest Polish music below the title Music for a Polish Pope presenting works impressed by Pope John Paul II and that includes seven UK premieres. There have been items by Wojciech Kilar (1932-2013), Michał Ziółkowski (born 1991), Marcin Łukaszewski (born 1972), Stanisław Moryto (1947-2018), Miłosz Bembinow (born 1978), Marian Borkowski (born 1934) and Dariusz Przybylski (born 1984), with Paweł Łukaszewski‘s (born 1968) Missa Sancti Papae Ioannis Pauli Secundi Magni which was written for Pope John Paul II’s centenary. Paweł Łukaszewski comes from one thing of a Polish composition dynasty, his brother is Marcin Łukaszewski and their father was the composer Wojciech Łukaszewski (1936-1978).

The night introduced us with fairly a hanging age-range of composers and what it appeared to point out was that regardless of the curiosity within the extra avant garde, there was a vein of latest classical that ran by Polish music. Maybe we should always keep in mind that a lot of the music within the live performance was designed to be sensible, to be sung by a choir in a church and as such there have been limitations. Not that the music we heard was simplistic, removed from it, there have been loads of advanced moments and examples dazzling choral writing, however beneath there was a use of tonality and tonal centres. At occasions we approached the sacred minimalism of the Baltic faculty, however this was a unique sound world and there have been echoes of composers resembling John Tavener too. 

We started with Wojciech Kilar’s Agnus Dei from his Missa professional tempo, a piece premiered in 2001 and introduced by the Warsaw Philharmonic on the Vatican that 12 months within the presence of Pope John Paul II. It’s the type of work that sounds terrific, not advanced however a satan to sing. The lads had a single, unvarying chant-like phrase which was repeated advert nauseam, and over this Kilar constructed a construction, hovering melisma from the higher voices, creating one thing fairly affecting. The mass is for choir and orchestra, so this motion should make a hanging distinction. Subsequent got here Michał Ziółkowski’s Ave maris Stella, a piece that had a beautiful readability to it. Ziółkowski used homophony extensively right here, however with some properly spicey concord, step by step turning into extra intense until it labored as much as a robust, piercing climax. Marcin Łukaszewski’s Pie Jesu featured a fluid, chant-like melody flowing over held strains, creating moments of actual magnificence.

There adopted the primary of two organ items, performed by Rupert Jeffcoat. Stanisław Moryto’s Veni creator started with chant, the road weaving its method spherical different strains over drones, all excessive within the organ’s register. Based mostly across the fixed repetition of figurations, the work developed in depth and denseness of concord.

Miłosz Bembinow’s Veni Sancte Spiritus (from 2013) was multi-sectional with a transparent sense of chant inspiration, but every part constructed from totally different assemblages of motifs in order that we had a sense of regularly altering textures responding to the totally different strains of the textual content. Marian Borkowski’s Regina caeli (from 1995), started with an intense opening gesture, the notes of the chord extensively spaced. The work then used a fairly chromatic melody with parallel harmonies, the totally different sections jump-cutting fairly than modulating and the consequence fairly jogged my memory of a few of John Tavener’s strategies in his smaller choral works.

The second organ work, Dariusz Przybylski’s Kölner Fanfare, was written for a group celebrating the brand new organ at Cologne Cathedral put in in 2006. Starting with a spiky fanfare stuffed with jazzy rhythms, the piece, we had moments of the Veni Creator Spiritus chant which appeared one way or the other virtually misplaced.

Paweł Łukaszewski’s Missa Sancti Papae Ioannis Pauli Secundi Magni was premiered in 2020 on the Warsaw Philharmonic. The work is in six actions, an Alleluia added to the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. Although tonal, with harmonies which might be usually easy and direct, the work avoids a single type and Łukaszewski’s concern appears very a lot to have expressed the phrases being uttered on the time. All through the piece, although we had parts of polyphony, readability of textual content gave the impression to be paramount. The brief Kyrie contrasted flowing polyphony with homophony, ending in a considerably mystical method. The vigorous Gloria moved between vivid and intimate, all the time responding to the which means of the textual content. The Alleluia featured a easy vocal melody repeated over a various background, with a central chant part with wealthy harmonies on the textual content Tu es Petrus. The Credo featured a quick, quietly intense chordal chanting, actually emphasising the necessary textual content, with sure key moments highlighted by particular therapy, actually giving the motion a sense of a neighborhood chanting the Creed collectively. The nice and cozy harmonies of the Sanctus supported a motion the place the metre of the music modified in response to the textual content being sung, with a beautiful simplicity to the Benedictu. Lastly, the Agnus Dei with some splendidly efficient choral writing as musical textures modified and diversified, heightening the impact of the music at every repetition of the textual content till, on the finish, it grew to become quiet and intimate with a closing, questioning ‘Pacem’.

The ultimate work within the programme was Marian Borkowski’s Libera me, a piece constructed across the repeated alternation of an intense choral cry and extra hushed moments. This was an efficient piece, although I needed to admit that I discovered the alternations of loud depth and quiet extra enervating than transferring.

The performances from Polyphony, Stephen Layton and Rupert Jeffcoat have been all excellent, each notice of music appeared completely positioned. Layton and his choir actually managed to seize the totally different atmospheres of the items, while Jeffcoat dazzled together with his organ enjoying.

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