The Lebrecht Weekly: Krzysztof Penderecki – Credo (Hänssler Classics)

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The Polish composer died a year ago next week and still awaits a funeral. The constraints of Covid and the demands of family and friends for a state occasion have led to delays and deferrals, a sad coda to a life of service to God and man.

Although acclaimed as a modernist, Penderecki never supped easily with the atheistic avant-garde and always lit up when opportunity arose to compose a work that celebrated his Roman Catholic faith. The Credo, co-commissioned in 1996 by Stuttgart’s Bach academy and the Oregon Bach Festival, is infused with a sense of liberation, a release from having to please anyone below the angels.

It is richly textured and profusely melodic. There are passages which recall Stravinsky of the Symphony of Psalms and Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, but Penderecki does not look over his shoulder for long. He finds moments of memorable originality for five soloists – soprano Juliane Banse, bass Thomas Quasthoff, tenor Thomas Randle and mezzos Marietta Simpson and Milagro Vargas – keeping them fresh for a huge apotheosis with the Oregon orchestra and chorus, conducted by Helmut Rilling. The climaxes are sensational, some of the strongest music Penderecki ever created. This live recording of the Oregon premiere takes us back to a time when a remote American campus festival was ambitious enough to engage with the best living composers. We may never see its like again.

NL

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About Author

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review // Norman Lebrecht est un rédacteur prolifique couvrant les événements musicaux et Slipped Disc, est un des plus populaires sites de nouvelles culturelles. Il anime The Lebrecht Interview sur la BBC Radio 3 et collabore à plusieurs publications, dont The Wall Street Journal et The Standpoint. Vous pouvez lire ses critiques de disques chaque vendredi.

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