The suppression of creative musical life under Communism had as one of its little-noticed side effects a delay in the development in the historical-performance movement in Eastern Europe. The result is a vast body of music that has lain untouched for centuries. Perhaps it contains beauties untold; perhaps it even contains the secret of how we can all just get along. The library of the Jasa Gora Monastery in Czestochowa contains music by no fewer than 120 Polish composers from various time periods -- some 3,000 works in all. These are now being investigated, published, performed by historically appropriate forces, and recorded. From the evidence of this disc, the 13th in an ongoing series, the enterprise is yielding fascinating sounds. The disc presents sacred works by Amando Ivancic Osppe, a monk and composer born in 1727 who was born in Croatia and apparently worked in Bohemia. The back cover of the album gives a tentative 1790 deathdate, but the booklet itself suggests that he might have died in 1762 -- but that "the heyday of Ivancic's compositional career spanned the years 1755 to 1770." A native-born composer might seem a better use for the resources devoted to this series, but his work was known in Poland and is little heard today. The degree to which he had absorbed the new Classical simplicities is impressive whatever its date, but what is really striking for the listener is the degree to which he made the early Classical style his own. It is hard to think of a mass from the third quarter of the eighteenth century, by Haydn or anyone else, that resembles the Missa Solemnis recorded here. The most distinctive feature is the restricted role of the choir, which merely accents rather than frames the text. Hear the beginning of the Gloria, where the word "pax" is immediately batted around among the soloists after an introductory phrase of plainchant. The expressive load is carried by the soloists -- yet the composer only rarely has recourse to operatic language. The mass is short, and the text is divided up into two- or three-minute sections, mostly with a bouncy, dancelike melodic idiom that the booklet accurately describes as charming. (The booklet is a sumptuous, detailed, and quite informative thing, but be aware that it also contains its share of out-and-out religious exhortation, including a lengthy and not really germane quotation from the writings of then Cardinal Ratzinger.) Some highlights to try as samples include the angelic dialogue of the Incarnatus, with accompaniment from an organ continuo, and the final Dona nobis pacem. The textier sections of the Credo are dealt with by giving lines of text simultaneously to different parts, but in other places Ivancic focuses sharply on single words or ideas. The smaller works toward the end of the album are for soloists only, but there is not a sharp difference in style between them and the Missa Solemnis. The Concerto Polacco ensemble delivers a sympathetic interpretation of the music even if the musicians are not -- in the matter of getting precise sounds out of natural horns, for instance -- yet in a league with Western European Classical-era specialists, and the small Sine Nomine vocal ensemble (don't call them nobodies!) achieves just the pleasant, modest sound the music calls for. A fascinating release that leaves one wanting more.
Jasnogórska Muzyka Dawna: Musica Claromontana, Vol. 13 Review
by James Manheim
|Missa Solemnis, for 4 voices, 2 horns, 2 violins & organ|
|Litania de Beata Maria Virgine, for 4 voices, 2 violins & organ|