Krzysztof Penderecki - A Polish Requiem

Tuesday 1st October 1996
Krzysztof Penderecki - A Polish Requiem

STYLE: Choral
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
LABEL: Chandos 9459602

Reviewed by John Irvine

Penderecki's legacy is to have written some of the most challenging, dramatic and radically innovative music of the 20th century - particularly in the field of sacred choral music. His Catholic faith has been the inspiration of his music and very often the subject matter also. As a Polish patriot he felt compelled during the virtual civil war of the 1980s between the Communist Government and the Trade Union Solidarity to write a piece of music which expressed the cry of the Polish people in the midst of their suffering both past and present - and this became "The Polish Requiem". The Requiem is a Mass of suffering, of crucifixion; it is also a Mass of hope and resurrection ending with the plea that those who have suffered and died may pass from death to life. It was a monument to the Polish martyrs of the past (Saint Maximilian Kolbe) as well as of the current struggle. The sorrow of Man in the latter part of this century, conscious of the inhumanity of man to man in all parts of the world, is powerfully expressed. Therefore, despite the particularly "Polish" references in the symbolic use of an ancient Polish Hymn, this Requiem has powerfully spoken to people the world over. It is as much a Requiem for the dead in Ireland and in Bosnia as in Poland. As a result this has become one of Penderecki's most popular works. Now a new twist: a new section - a gloriously tremendous "Sanctus" - has been written to expand the Requiem and this is the first recording of the newly completed work. Under the composer's baton the combined forces of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus and the four soloists (Gadulanka, Rappe, Terzakis, Nowacki) this is a stunning recording of what is sure to remain one of the most important choral works of this century. From the chilling graveyard opening of the "Introitus/Kyrie", through the hellfire of the "Dies Irae", to the powerfully moving "Recordare" section where Penderecki's genius in blending his own composition with that of an ancient hymn is abundantly evident, and beyond, the listener is held gripped both by the sorrow-laden music and the impassioned performances of both instruments and voices, together creating a vision of despair with only a faint glimmer of hope. Penderecki may not come across as an optimist - and his striking music may prove too aurally challenging for some - but he is a realist and is able to reflect the feelings shared by suffering humankind in a way perhaps no other composer of this century has been able to do. This recording is destined to become a benchmark for future recordings of the Requiem to aspire to. An essential classic composition; a superlative recording. Recommended without the slightest reservation.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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