Krzysztof Penderecki - Threnody, Psalms Of David, St Luke's Passion

Friday 1st October 1993
Krzysztof Penderecki - Threnody, Psalms Of David, St Luke's Passion

STYLE: Classical
LABEL: Polskie Nagrania 0174

Reviewed by John Irvine

Polskie Nagrania are the national record label in Poland who recently have re-released state recordings of Polish composers onto CD. Some of these recordings, however, are better than others. Suffice to say that this 1966 recording of Penderecki's undisputed masterpiece "St Luke's Passion" is an absolute shambles. The choir and soloists were so badly recorded you can hear the original source tape disintegrate at the loud bits, and in the quiet bits all you can hear is the tape hiss. This is to say nothing of the 'glitches' arising from damage the tape has received in the intervening 25 years. No attempt has been made to transfer the original to digital tape, repair the damage and remove the tape hiss. It doesn't pass as 'high-fidelity' sound, let alone as CD quality, which is a shame when you consider that this is a very fine performance of the "Passion". The other recordings in this double CD set seem to have survived the intervening quarter century in better condition. Threnody For The Victims Of Hiroshima' (1960) is the piece which brought Penderecki international recognition. It is still highly distinctive and without comparison in contemporary classical music, except perhaps to Ligeti who uses similar techniques in composition. "The Psalms Of David" (1959) was Penderecki's first important piece, winning first prize in the Polish Young Composers Competition. The vocal techniques here were later developed into the more advanced style distinctive of the "Passion" and other sacred music. The other pieces on this collection reflected Penderecki's desire to release all of the possible kinds of sound available from orchestral instruments as well as voices: they are experimental pieces which won favour with the avant-garde at the time, but are of little more than historical or biographical interest now. All in all a fairly disappointing collection, probably due more to the quality of sound than the musical content.

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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