Classical Music Home

The World's Leading Classical Music Group

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?
Keyword Search
in
 
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews



 
See latest reviews of other albums...


James A. Altena
Fanfare, November 2011

Here the composer has given us a masterwork equal in rank to his Polish Requiem and Seventh Symphony, and the assembled forces under Penderecki advocate Antoni Wit turn in a performance fully worthy of the piece.




David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, May 2011

Antoni Wit’s Penderecki series for Naxos has been uniformly excellent, and this latest installment is no exception. Credo, which was commissioned by Helmut Rilling and the Oregon Bach Festival, is a wholly approachable and largely optimistic work. Many of its ideas, such as the oboe solo in the first movement, are strikingly beautiful in a traditional, melodic way, and while much of the music is slowish and devotional, there is more than enough color and variety to sustain interest. The percussion writing in the eighth movement is particularly arresting, but then the work is full of characterful and always text-sensitive ideas.

As we have come to expect from this source, the singing is excellent. Penderecki’s vocal writing can be treacherous in its exploitation of extremes of high and low, and Wit invariably chooses soloists who are up to the challenge. Both of the sopranos (Iwona Hossa and Aga Mikolaj), as well as bass Remigiusz Lukomski, do a fine job with music that can sound really ungrateful. The choirs sing magnificently and the orchestra plays with total conviction. Naxos’ engineering is spacious but also detailed.

The cantata was composed in 1964 to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the founding of the Jagellonian University outside Krakow. Only six and a half minutes long, it comes from the composer’s more avant-garde period and features the usual range of evocative vocal and orchestral effects. It’s as well performed as Credo—and it makes a nice filler in that having these two pieces together offers an enjoyable view of Penderecki’s stylistic range over a roughly 30-year period. Top recommendation.



James A. Altena
Fanfare, May 2011

The Credo, as an affirmative statement of the composer’s own devout Catholicism, is distinct in being comparatively more upbeat than the symphonies or Polish Requiem. This is the second recording of Penderecki’s monumental setting of the central symbolon of the Christian faith. Martin Anderson and Raymond Tuttle both reviewed the first, on Hänssler with forces under Helmuth Rilling, in 22:4; as they ably describe the musical contents in detail, I will simply refer readers to their reviews for those aspects. Anderson was basically approving, if a bit patronizing, finding the work effective in its big rhetorical gestures for conservative concert audiences that shun avant-garde pieces, but somewhat derivative. Tuttle—a regular reviewer of Penderecki compositions for Fanfare who cites the formative influence that Penderecki’s earlier works exercised upon him in his youth—concluded that he was “more than a little bemused” by the work, though adding, “I expect that my appreciation for this work and for this CD will only increase with time.” (Given his shift in his views of Penderecki’s later works, I presume it has.) I, on the other hand, embrace it as an unqualified masterpiece, fully worthy to stand beside the Polish Requiem and Seventh Symphony.

While the Rilling recording is very fine, this one is even better. Antoni Wit rightly reigns as Penderecki’s premier interpreter, and there are numerous subtle touches that give him the edge over his esteemed German counterpart, beginning with the slightly more legato flow in the choral parts that avoids too much static monumentality and maintains measured but inexorable momentum. Even though the text is Latin rather than Polish, Wit’s soloists, despite being far less renowned than their starry counterparts under Rilling, simply sound more idiomatic; I never expected to find Remigiusz Łukomski superior to Thomas Quasthoff as a bass soloist, but he is, and the same can be said for the other voice parts as well. Finally, Naxos has a more open and spacious recorded acoustic, which makes the Hänssler disc sound a bit boxy by comparison, and provides nine cueing tracks as opposed to five for accessing sections of the work. The booklet includes Latin texts and English translations, photos and biographical synopses of the performers, and extensive program notes. If you already have the Rilling CD you don’t need to rush out and buy this Naxos issue, but if you can afford it, by all means get it. Urgently recommended, and a likely 2011 Want List candidate.

As a bonus, Naxos includes the world premiere recording of a brief cantata (6:31) that Penderecki wrote in 1964 to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the founding of the Jagellonian University near Kraków. This piece brings us back to the early experimental Penderecki, with tone clusters and fistfuls of dissonances, extensive employment of percussion instruments and snarling brass, whispering and hissing effects from the choir, and so on. Several effects present here would shortly reappear in the St. Luke Passion.



Allen Gimbel
American Record Guide, March 2011

The Credo (1998) is a vast, tonal amalgam of various religious texts in Penderecki’s familiar “neoromantic” church style—powerful, moving, and unremittingly intense. From its noble opening on, this work is one of the most impressive triumphs for one of the 20th Century’s greatest composers of sacred choral music. There are ample passages of Beethovenian sublimity, searchingly expressive wind solos, forbidding climaxes, and transcendent visions (the brass “points” surrounding the crucifixion are particularly striking). The angular march leading to that episode and the radiant resurrection that follows are hard not to be impressed by. The piece is completely tonal, and in fact ends on a simple, quiet brass triad. The overall structure is thoroughly and rather traditionally “symphonic”, with well-placed recapitulations in their proper places (about three quarters of the way through). Penderecki’s famous chromaticism is held in relative check in this piece. In summary, if you are only going to have one Penderecki choral work in your collection, I would go for this.

The performance is good…Choral and orchestral forces are, as would be expected, fine.



John Allison
BBC Music Magazine, December 2010

In charge of the Warsaw Philharmonic and big vocal forces, Antoni Wit conducts with authoritative fervour, bringing out the dark, brass-heavy colour. The soprano Iwona Hossa leads a well-balanced vocal quintet, although Ewa Wolak still stands out for her vocal solos. As a reminder of Penderecki’s earlier, avant-garde style, the short Cantata in honorem Almae Matris, composed in 1964 for the 600th anniversary of Kraków’s Jacellonian University, receives an arresting performance.




Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, November 2010

Naxos, with the able assistance of Antoni Wit and his Warsaw and Katowice forces, are doing Penderecki very proud. You’ll find my review of his works for cello and orchestra (8.570509) here, together with a link to all the MusicWeb reviews of his music which had been published to that date (December 2008). Since then Naxos have added a recording by Wit of the Symphony No.8, with Dies iræ and Psalms of David (8.570450).

I can’t better the description from USA Today of the Credo as a ‘colourful and extroverted’ piece, quoted by Naxos on the rear insert of the CD. If you thought of the earlier Penderecki as avant-garde, as indeed he was, and prefer something a little more ‘traditional’, yet with a voice of its own, you should be well pleased with this work. You may find it reminiscent of the likes of Orff’s Carmina Burana or Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, even Bachat times, without ever losing that individual voice which I’ve mentioned. I’d heard it at least once in a broadcast performance, but I was bowled over all over again by its wonderful combination of passion and contemplation.

If you think that 50 minutes is rather long for the Credo—it would make any celebration of Mass where it was employed very long indeed—Penderecki interpolates biblical and liturgical material at various points. After the Crucifixus section there is a short Polish hymn, the Improperia or Reproaches from the Good Friday liturgy in Latin and Polish, and the first stanza of the hymn Pange lingua. The Et resurrexit section is followed by the opening of the Seventh Seal from Revelation 1115 and Confiteor unum baptisma by the opening of the Eastertide hymn Salve festa dies. Finally, Et vitam venturi sæculi, which rounds off the work in rousing fashion and with the strongest echo of the earlier Penderecki, contains the Easter response from Psalm 117 (118): Hæc dies, This is the day which the Lord hath made.

All concerned give of their best to make this a most effective performance and the recording engineers match their achievement. Some of the soloists on earlier Naxos recordings of Penderecki have manifested something of a Slavonic ‘wobble’. I’m pleased to say that it’s much less in evidence here: I hadn’t heard any of them before, but they all negotiate the difficulties of their parts. Choir and orchestra also have considerable demands placed on them; they, too, acquit themselves well. If the textures are a little opaque at times, that’s due more to the large sound which Penderecki’s music produces than to the sound engineers.

The Cantata in honour of the Jagiellonian University, near Kraków, is an earlier and much tougher proposition than Credo and I responded to it less enthusiastically.

Richard Whitehouse’s notes are excellent. The texts of the Credo and the much shorter Cantata are included in the booklet. The English translation is independent of both the traditional Book of Common Prayer translation and its modern Roman Catholic and Anglican equivalent—not always to its benefit, but it will certainly pass muster for those unacquainted with the text. I’m pleased to see Naxos apparently returning to including texts and translations here and in other recent releases.

The misprint Qui propter nod homines, the heading for the translation of track 2, provides an interesting diversion. Presumably the nod homines were asleep at the time of the nativity. Fortunately, the choir sing the correct nos homines.

Like several other recent Naxos releases, my review copy reached me with the most of the segments of the central rose which holds the CD shattered. I hope that is not becoming a regular feature of their cases.

I’ve just resisted making another Naxos recording Bargain of the Month—Missa solemnis attributed to Mozart and Mayr Te Deum (8.570926)—but this must join their recording of Haydn’s ‘Nelson’ Mass and Nikolaimesse (8.572123) among the holders of that honour.



Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, November 2010

Krzysztof Penderecki has come a long way since he hit the musical scene in the early 1960s with his Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima and the St Luke Passion. After the 1st Symphony (1973) his style started to change and the Violin Concerto (1976), and 2nd Cello Concerto (1982), saw a generous new vein of late romantic lyricism enter his work. That’s not to say that he lost his “edge” as a contemporary composer, but he seemed happy in a more relaxed, less angstvoll style. However, more recent works, such as the Horn Concerto, subtitled Winterreise (2007/2008) and Symphony No.8, Lieder der Vergänglichkeit (2004/2005) seem to show him simply going through the motions of composition with neither enthusiasm nor interest.

It is obvious that Penderecki’s career as a conductor influenced his own work—“The kind of music I was conducting influenced my own music very much. During this time [the 1970s] I began to have my Romantic ideas, partly because I was conducting Bruckner, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky.” But one has to wonder if this was a good thing. In an interview given in 2000, with Bruce Duffie, he said, “we pushed music so far in the sixties that even for myself, for me, I closed the door behind me, because there was no way to do anything more than I have done…I decided that there is no way that I can move on.” Certainly not everyone was happy with the change in musical direction. A comment from Bernard Holland, in the New York Times, concerning the American première of the 3rd Symphony, seems to be relevant to the Credo here under discussion—“One would admire more his economy of means, were the means being economized more interesting.”

Credo comes from the very end of the second period, if I may call it that, where the music, although of a more romantic inclination, still has some disturbing undercurrents. But it worries me for although there is some bold choral writing, there is also some very banal orchestral material. Certainly the best music here is for the chorus and when the orchestra is in an accompanying role the writing is interesting but Penderecki seems unable to sustain the level of inspiration throughout the whole work. Credo is a relatively short work, and that’s no bad thing, for there simply isn‘t the material to sustain a bigger structure, of the dimensions of one of the earlier choral and orchestral works. Here, Penderecki seems to have lived up to Holland’s comments regarding the 3rd Symphony, written not long before the Credo.

One would expect the Cantata in Honour of the Alma Mater Jagellonian University Founded Six Hundred Years Ago to be a pièce d’occasion but in fact what we have is a tough, uncompromising essay in the manner of Penderecki’s 1960s style, but toned down a little as befits such an obviously public work. I have to say that the disk is worth having for this piece alone.

Performances and recording are first rate and the booklet contains full texts and translations.



Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, November 2010

Bargain of the Month

Naxos, with the able assistance of Antoni Wit and his Warsaw and Katowice forces, are doing Penderecki very proud. You’ll find my review of his works for cello and orchestra (8.570509) here, together with a link to all the MusicWeb reviews of his music which had been published to that date (December 2008). Since then Naxos have added a recording by Wit of the Symphony No.8, with Dies iræ and Psalms of David (8.570450).

I can’t better the description from USA Today of the Credo as a ‘colourful and extroverted’ piece, quoted by Naxos on the rear insert of the CD. If you thought of the earlier Penderecki as avant-garde, as indeed he was, and prefer something a little more ‘traditional’, yet with a voice of its own, you should be well pleased with this work. You may find it reminiscent of the likes of Orff’s Carmina Burana or Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, even Bachat times, without ever losing that individual voice which I’ve mentioned. I’d heard it at least once in a broadcast performance, but I was bowled over all over again by its wonderful combination of passion and contemplation.

If you think that 50 minutes is rather long for the Credo—it would make any celebration of Mass where it was employed very long indeed—Penderecki interpolates biblical and liturgical material at various points. After the Crucifixus section there is a short Polish hymn, the Improperia or Reproaches from the Good Friday liturgy in Latin and Polish, and the first stanza of the hymn Pange lingua. The Et resurrexit section is followed by the opening of the Seventh Seal from Revelation 1115 and Confiteor unum baptisma by the opening of the Eastertide hymn Salve festa dies. Finally, Et vitam venturi sæculi, which rounds off the work in rousing fashion and with the strongest echo of the earlier Penderecki, contains the Easter response from Psalm 117 (118): Hæc dies, This is the day which the Lord hath made.

All concerned give of their best to make this a most effective performance and the recording engineers match their achievement. Some of the soloists on earlier Naxos recordings of Penderecki have manifested something of a Slavonic ‘wobble’. I’m pleased to say that it’s much less in evidence here: I hadn’t heard any of them before, but they all negotiate the difficulties of their parts. Choir and orchestra also have considerable demands placed on them; they, too, acquit themselves well. If the textures are a little opaque at times, that’s due more to the large sound which Penderecki’s music produces than to the sound engineers.

The Cantata in honour of the Jagiellonian University, near Kraków, is an earlier and much tougher proposition than Credo and I responded to it less enthusiastically.

Richard Whitehouse’s notes are excellent. The texts of the Credo and the much shorter Cantata are included in the booklet. The English translation is independent of both the traditional Book of Common Prayer translation and its modern Roman Catholic and Anglican equivalent—not always to its benefit, but it will certainly pass muster for those unacquainted with the text. I’m pleased to see Naxos apparently returning to including texts and translations here and in other recent releases.

The misprint Qui propter nod homines, the heading for the translation of track 2, provides an interesting diversion. Presumably the nod homines were asleep at the time of the nativity. Fortunately, the choir sing the correct nos homines.

Like several other recent Naxos releases, my review copy reached me with the most of the segments of the central rose which holds the CD shattered. I hope that is not becoming a regular feature of their cases.

I’ve just resisted making another Naxos recording Bargain of the Month—Missa solemnis attributed to Mozart and Mayr Te Deum (8.570926)—but this must join their recording of Haydn’s ‘Nelson’ Mass and Nikolaimesse (8.572123) among the holders of that honour.



Arnold Whittall
Gramophone, November 2010

A tongue-twisting cantata and the well known Credo—but is either successful?

This latest contribution to Naxos’s Penderecki series, recorded in Warsaw by Polish forces under the seasoned and always enlivening control of Antoni Wit, offers another juxtaposition of earlier (radical) with more recent (conservative) compositions. Cantata in honorem Almae Matris Universitatis Iagellonicae sescentos abhinc anos fundatae (1964) is a real curiosity. Given its—for Penderecki—unusual brevity (six and a half minutes), and its tongue-twistingly long Latin title, you might suspect a dutiful response to a welcome but uninspiring commission to mark the 600th anniversary of the Jagiellonian University’s foundation. There is indeed something almost casual about its stark, Expressionistic style, a confession perhaps that this idiom was something Penderecki no longer found congenial. What he soon came to prefer can be heard in the 50-minute Credo he wrote in 1997–98 for the Oregon Bach Festival.

The basic Latin text is filled out with other devotional material, and it seems as if the composer’s intention was to sustain a spiritual fervour that overrides even the stark contrasts—most obviously between “Crucifixus” and “Et resurrexit”—that the original verses provide, and which other composers of Credos for concert performance understandably seize on for music-dramatic purposes. Fortunately, the initial spirit of bombastic triumphalism is modified as the work proceeds. But despite the valiant efforts of Wit and his musicians, including an excellent team of soloists, the effect is more portentous than intense, more laboured than exuberant. A more sharply focused recording might have helped, yet it is difficult to feel that any recording of Penderecki’s Credo would show it to be one of the more successful examples of his current, anti-progressive musical style.



Stephen Eddins
Allmusic.com, October 2010

Religious music has been a significant part of Penderecki’s output from early in his career, and his St. Luke Passion of 1966 [8.557149] was a key work in establishing his international reputation as an iconoclast with an original and arresting musical vision. Since turning his back on the avant-garde in the 1970s he has devoted even more energy to religious music, creating a number of large pieces, some of which are among his most significant works in his mature post-Romantic style. Penderecki’s essential perspective—earnest, dense, and darkly dramatic—has remained constant throughout his career, though, and is on full display in his 50-minute 1998 setting of the Credo, a part of the Mass most of which is devoted to optimism and affirmation. The composer’s setting of the central section asserting belief in the crucifixion and death of Jesus is appropriately grim, but even the more traditionally positive sections sound anguished and angst-ridden, as if every aspect of the composer’s faith were very serious business indeed. There are a few moments of brightness, including parts of the first movement and the end of Et in Spiritum Sanctus, but even the concluding Alleluia is almost entirely in a bleak minor mode until the final major cadence. The brief Cantata in honorem Almae Matris, written to honor the Jagellonian University, which Penderecki attended, comes from 1964, the height of his experimental period. Its sinister mutterings aren’t out of character with his music of that era, but it hardly sounds celebratory. Led by Antoni Wit, the Warsaw Boys Choir, Warsaw Philharmonic Choir, and Warsaw Philharmonic perform the difficult scores with passion and intensity. Some of the soloists are very fine, and some less so, but all are reasonably effective. The sound is about as clear as could be expected given the textural and harmonic density created by the massed choral and orchestral forces.



Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, October 2010

The artistic and music directors at Naxos have been strong supporters and promoters (I believe this to be the 14th recording of his music in their catalogue) of the music of Krzysztof Penderecki (1933–), an important and imposing figure in the artistic life of Poland, and in fact one of the most imposing figures in present day music. He is one of the present day composers to have received the most awards and honors in various fields. And even now, at the age of 76, he is still very actively involved in the creation and performance of music, so much so that he will be conducting some of his own works in China, during concerts scheduled for mid-October 2010. He made a name for himself in the 1960s with the composition of ‘Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima’, a very modern and forward-looking work. But gradually, ever since, Penderecki has been looking back. He has been consciously retrograding. He himself admitted that “experimentation and formal speculation, are more destructive than constructive.” Beautiful writing like what we hear in the Crucem tuam adoramus, Domine segment of this Credo, would not have come to be had he not come to that realization.

This Naxos release is an important recording and impressive account of this work. There is only one other recording of this 1998 composition, which was released about ten years ago by the commissioners of the work. It is written for five singers, choir, boy’s choir and orchestra. It is full of plaintive gestures, evocative imagery and powerful statements, and bears more kinship to similar works written 100 years ago than to today’s music. The writing is very well proportioned between the soloists, choral segments and orchestral forces, with many fine passages when all of these elements combine to form some impressive moments. Some of the gripping orchestral passages point forward to his own ‘Horn Concerto’ from 2008. If it wasn’t for the text, I myself would view and consider this as a Requiem for the 20th century. It is a 50 minute work with never a dull moment. The other work on this CD is a 6 minute Cantata from his avant garde phase during the 60s. It is a strong work in its own way, and gives us a chance to compare the two opposing poles that define Penderecki’s output. You can be the judge as to which of his styles communicates strongest.

Conductor Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra are truly in their element here. Everything they’ve recorded in collaboration with Naxos over the last few years has been tremendously well done, and captured in state-of-the-art sound. The soloists, the two sopranos Iwona Hossa and Aga Mikolaj, alto Ewa Wolak, tenor Rafal Bartminski and bass Remigiusz Lukomski, could not have been better selected for their strong participation, and perceptible devotion to the inherent content and substance of this challenging work.



Joshua Meggitt
Cyclic Defrost, September 2010

Krzysztof Penderecki is a composer with two lives: one, the creator of radical, challenging, fiercely avant-garde orchestral works including the Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (1961) and Fluorescences (1962); two, the composer of devotional religious music, frequently reduced choral settings, particularly prevalent after the Stabat Mater of 1966. The former music allied him with fellow Eastern European modernists Ligeti and Lutoslawski, appeared in the visionary films of Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch, and no doubt led to his recent interview in techno website Resident Advisor. Later works reject the overt political stance and explosive sound worlds in favour of tonal simplicity, no doubt leading to wider popular appeal but losing the excitement and violence of those earlier pieces. However as this disc demonstrates, the two worlds aren’t as distinct as they may at first seem.

Credo of 1998 explores a section of the liturgical Mass to investigate the composer’s own spiritual beliefs, developing a series of ideas over a number of distinct yet related sections. There is none of Arvo Part’s austerity; Credo works in bold, brash colours, big choral and orchestral gestures daubed on with vigour. The introduction is immediately gripping, massed voices loudly singing over droning organ and large blocks of symphonic sound. Elsewhere blasts of brass evoke particularly violent angels, slowing to the bucolic calm of the penultimate movement before concluding with hammered percussion and rousing chorus. The Cantata of 1964 finds Penderecki exploring the idiom with more open ears. Dedicated to the founding and survival of the Jagellonian University near Krakow, threatened with destruction by the Nazis, Penderecki here utilises a range of sonic means—glissandi, tone clusters, percussion salvos, silence—arranged in jagged contrast, to depict the School’s endurance. It’s a thrilling piece, the stand-out on this impressive snap-shot survey.






Famous Composers Quick Link:
Bach | Beethoven | Chopin | Dowland | Handel | Haydn | Mozart | Glazunov | Schumann | R Strauss | Vivaldi
3:45:42 PM, 31 October 2014
All Naxos Historical, Naxos Classical Archives, Naxos Jazz, Folk and Rock Legends and Naxos Nostalgia titles are not available in the United States and some titles may not be available in Australia and Singapore because these countries have copyright laws that provide or may provide for terms of protection for sound recordings that differ from the rest of the world.
Copyright © 2014 Naxos Digital Services Ltd. All rights reserved.     Terms of Use     Privacy Policy
-208-
Classical Music Home
NOTICE: This site was unavailable for several hours on Saturday, June 25th 2011 due to some unexpected but essential maintenance work. We apologize for any inconvenience.