Sunday, December 19, 2010

Krzysztof Penderecki - Polish Requiem

In late 1970s it became clear that Krzysztof Penderecki has turned to neoromanticism. The public opinion received this turn as a meaningful gesture towards tradition and against progress-focused contemporary culture. The profound meaning of this attitude was strongly visible in the era of changes, when political and economical stabilization in end of decade has run to an end. In Poland, after strikes, the rise of Solidarity and political collapse of the system, a quite new context for new music was established. And social acceptance of new traditional style was bigger than anybody could expect.
Two months after victorious workers’ strikes, Penderecki received historical order. The monument of shipyard workers killed in 1970 was going to be unveiled in Gdansk December 1980. For this ceremony composer wrote Lacrimosa. After the death of the Polish primate cardinal Stefan Wyszyński in May 1981, in few hours Penderecki wrote Agnus Dei for choir a cappella. It was performed for the first time during the funeral in St. John Cathedral in Warsaw. These pieces became the two parts of his newly planned work. The next two movements which the composer wrote for the cycle were Dies irae, devoted to 40th anniversary of Warsaw Uprising, and Libera me, Domine in memoriam of Katyń victims.  The premiere performance of the complete Polish Requiem took place in Stuttgart, September 28th, 1984 under the direction of Mstislav Rostropovich.

Krzysztof Penderecki - Polish Requiem

In April 1985 Polish Requiem has been recorded in Center of Arts in Katowice. Performance was successful and was recorded under the direction of Antoni Wit, who was an alumnus of Krzysztof Penderecki's composition class. The performing team was the best possible of this time. Soloists Jadwiga Gadulanka, Jadwiga Rappé, Henryk Grychnik and Carlo Zardo, two Krakow choirs: Radio-Television and Philharmonic and Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice joined the top quality performing body. Dramatic tension and monumental construction of the Polish Requiem are features which made impact on public acceptance.
Musical form of Polish Requiem is in close relations with the order of missa pro defunctis. Traditional construction of mass for the dead was based on contrasting comparison of lamentations alternated by dramatic movements pointing visions of the last judgment. Krzysztof Penderecki gave this composition clear message. The most dramatic and moving fragment of the whole cycle is Recordare where lyrical lamentation in Latin is sung along with Polish supplication Święty Boże, Święty mocny (Holy Lord, Holy and Mighty). This culmination point is so much affecting on listener because of the double musical narration. Themes to the Latin text and Polish religious song come together in form of passacaglia. The supplication I have mentioned before is based on Polish religious song which is singing while the moments of peculiar threat. The same motive returns in final part Libera animas and it is clearly a prayer for his country.

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