Mikolaj Zielenski: Ortus de Polonia

Les Traversees Baroques, Etienne Meyer, Fiori Musicali
59:40
K617248

This is the latest in a fine series of recordings in which the cornettist Judith Pacquier promotes the Polish baroque. The pieces vary from the massive multichoral to intimate small scale pieces – in homage to their Italian models. The performances are fresh throughout, even the largest in scale are like souflees, always achieving an airy and graceful presentation. The disc includes a pair of Gabrieli pieces to bring the comparison between the two nations into the foreground. This suggests two comments: It has become customary in Gabrieli performance to substitute the vocal top parts of upper choirs by instruments (and the complement for bottom bass parts). In the opening and closing larger pieces by Zielenski, this would seem to have been a useful approach. The top soprano part is of a conspicuously higher tessitura than the rest of the vocal parts. Though wonderfully sung, the resulting natural prominence means the audience has to peer through the bars, as it were, to see the more homogenous and self-sufficient group thus encased. The second is that graceful flow may, with benefit, sometimes be set aside. Gabrieli’s In ecclesiis includes many stark changes in harmony and sudden interruptions are surely meant to chill and shock – in the most baroque way. These were often papered over most elegantly, leaving the work of creating the drama to the changes in overall scale. Beautifully done, but delivered from a reduced arsenal.

The compositions include the harmonically adventurous and marvellous Vox in Rama, which is no second fiddle to the Italian masters, rivalling perhaps Gabrieli’s Timor et tremor. In a very effective change of scale, the first two large scale pieces are followed immediately by a single voice and single cornett providing divisions in comment. This is played very lyrically; the song reflected in a rippling stream. Later on we have an Italian version from Bassano, this time multiple voices and instruments, which forces a greater formality on proceedings, but is delivered with all the freedom possible. The whole ensemble, in all its combinations, is very well formed and balanced. There is something for everyone on the disc, and it convinces us that the mission of bringing Polish music further into the mainstream is one well worth pursuing.

Stephen Cassidy