This Grammy-winning, major-label release featuring Krzysztof Penderecki himself as conductor, leading an enthusiastic Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, may be taken as an official offering of Penderecki's choral music on the part of the composer, and it fills the bill in this regard. The program features a new work, the Dies Illa for three soloists, choir, and orchestra (2014), a pair of pieces from the mid-1990s, and a 1958 set of Psalms from the composer's serialist period. Penderecki goes in reverse chronological order: the program opens with the Dies Illa, which was written in memory of the victims of World War I and commissioned by the Flanders Festival. The work is a full-fledged, neo-Romantic, choral piece, with plenty of brass depicting the day-of-judgment themes of the text. The two orchestral hymns, to St. Daniel and St. Adalbert, are much quieter, with mood and texture both influenced by Orthodox church music, and the four Psalms are spare works showing the impact of Webern, the model for idealistic Poland in the 1950s. What makes this collection compelling is that there's a distinctive Penderecki personality, big yet meditative, that runs through all three of these works. It has something to do with the fact that, as a Pole, Penderecki did not have the luxury of ignoring history and retreating into academic subcultures the way some of his Western counterparts did. Who better to capture that personality in performance than the composer himself? A recommended Penderecki release.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Dies Illa for 3 soloists, choir and orchestra|
|Psalms of David for mixed choir and percussion|