Brilliantly performed by the Tapiola Chamber Choir under the direction of Juha Kuivanen, this complete collection of sacred works for chorus a capella by Penderecki is most welcome.
The Agnus Dei (1981) is dedicated to the memory of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, who became a symbol of the struggle against the Communist regime in Poland. This is a profoundly sighing prayer that becomes more gentle and peacefully resigned.
Benedicamus Domino (1992) has a simple but unique way of "modulating" chromatically without altering its medieval character, creating a warm yet byzantine feeling.
Benedictus (1992) is written in motet style with beautiful interweaving of lines. An exciting momentum is set in motion by the fragmentation of the last line among the voices.
In pulverem mortis (1963-65), the Crucifixion scene is described in a heart-breaking and powerful way from the perspective of the dying Jesus.
The Miserere mei, Deus (1963-65) is a prayer for intercession.
In Sicut locutus est (1974), notes are subtracted from clusters until the work ends with a gentle unison.
The Song of Cherubim (1986), like the spine-chilling Utrenia, evokes an ancient laudatory atmosphere with compressed intensity. The concluding Alleluia is not the conventional bombast but very eerie, suggesting infinite dimensions of spacetime.
The Stabat Mater (1962) is an intensely moving setting of the famous medieval lament of the Virgin Mary ("At the cross her station keeping, Stood the mournful Mother weeping"). Words are chanted on one central pitch while other singers weave closely around that tone, creating both a contemporary dissonance and a sense of ancient modality.
In Veni Creator (1987) the density is modulated continuously. "Set fire to our senses, pour love into our hearts."