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"Evening Song / Pieśń Wieczorna / Giesmė Vakarinė"

Nora Petročenko, soprano; Radosław Pachołek, alto; Maciej Gocman, tenor; Nerijus Masevičius, bass
Ensemble Morgaine

rec: Nov 25 - 28, 2019, Vilnius, Lithuanian National Culture Centre
Ayros - AY-CD05 (© 2020) (62'26")
Liner-notes: E/PL/LT; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

anon: Passomeszb [4]; Radim Themub [1]; Bálint BAKFARK (1526/30-1576): Czarna Krowaa; Cyprian BAZYLIK (c1535-c1600): Dobrotliwość Pańska [3]; Nabożna Piosnka [3]; Oratio Dominica [2]; Psalm 71 [In te, Domine, speravi] [3]; Psalm 130 [De profundis clamavi] [3]; Petrus DE DRUSINA (c1560-1611): Resonet in laudibusb [4]; Mikołaj GOMÓŁKA (c1535-?1609): Psalm 22 [Deus, Deus meus] [5]; Psalm 30 [Exaltabo te, Domine] [5]; Psalm 91 [Qui habitat in adiutorio altissimi] [5]; Psalm 127 [Nisi Dominus] [5]; Psalm 137 [Super flumina Babylonis] [5]; Krzysztof KLABON (c1550-c1616): Pieśni Kalliopy Słowiańskiej na teraźniejsze pod Byczyną zwycięstwo (exc); Wacław Z SZAMOTUŁ (ca. 1524-ca. 1560): [Christe, qui lux es et dies] [2]; Psalm 1 [Beatus vir] [2]; Psalm 86 [Inclina, Domine, aurem tuam] [3]; Psalm 117 [Alleluia! Laudate Dominum omnes gentes] [3]; Pieśń wieczorna

Sources: [1] Johannes de Lublin Tablature, 1540; [2] Pulawy Hymnal, 1556; [3] Zamoyski Hymnal, 1558-1570; [4] Braunsberger Orgeltabulatur, 1619; [5] Mikołaj Gomółka, Melodie na Psałterz polski, 1580

Mirjam-Luise Münzel, recorder; Darius Stabinskas, viola da gamba; Michele Carreca, lute (soloa); Alina Rotaru, harpsichord, organ (solob)

The Lutheran Reformation had far-reaching consequences in musical matters. Although Martin Luther did not want to banish Latin from the liturgy, he emphasized the importance of sacred music, in particular hymns and chorales, in the vernacular. This resulted in a large repertoire of sacred songs, which could be performed both in church, during worship, and at the homes of the faithful. Although sacred songs in the vernicular did exist before the Reformation, the repertoire was relatively small, it was not printed (as at that time the technique of music printing had not been invented yet) and it was also not sung during mass. Luther's influence was not limited to the circle of the Reformation. In France, for instance, the success of the Huguenot Psalter encouraged Catholic poets and composers to follow in the footsteps of their Protestant counterparts. Philippe Desportes put the 150 Psalms into 'French rhymes' and Jean-Antoine de Baïf translated the Psalter into 'measured verses'.

In 1579 Jan Kochanowski, who is generally considered the greatest Polish poet before the 19th century, and showed sympathies for the Reformation in his early works, published a versification of the Book of Psalms in Polish, and the next year Mikolaj Gomolka published his settings of these versifications. The latter was from the south-east of Poland and was in various ways connected to the court from 1545 to 1563. He later was active as a professional musician in Cracow in the service of leading citizens. One of them was Bishop Piotr Myszkowski, who also funded the publication of Kochanowski's Psalterz Dawidowy as well as Gomolka's Melodie na Psalterz polski. The epigram to Gomolka's collection was written by Andrzej Trzecieski, a leading representative of the Polish Reformation (*). From this one may conclude that these Psalm settings were meant to be used by Catholics and Protestants alike. An interesting aspect of Gomolka's Psalter is also that in the introduction he states that the Psalms are intended "not for Italians, but for Poles, for our simple countrymen". This undoubtedly refers to the influence of Italian musicians in Poland at the time, and also indicates the character of these Psalms: they are for four voices and set homophonically, which makes them suitable to be performed in domestic surroundings by people who were not very skilled in music.

A notable feature of this recording is that the stanzas of the Psalms and songs are performed alternately in Polish and Lithuanian. The reason is that from 1569 to 1795 Poland and Lithuania were connected through personal union in what is known as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1646 Saliamonas Mozerka Slavocinskis included 50 Lithuanian translations of Psalms by Kochanowski in his cantional Giesmes tikéjumui katolickam priderancios. In 1653 further translations were published, which are attributed to Steponas Jaugelis-Telega, the mayor of Kedainiai.

The last section of this disc is devoted to Wacław z Szamotuł, which is especially interesting as he first worked at the court of the Catholic Sigismund II Augustus and later converted to Protestantism; from 1555 until his death worked at the Calvinist court of Duke Mikołaj Radziwiłł in Lithuania. It is probably not commonly known that the Reformation had quite some followers and sympathizers in Poland. A representative of the Reformation in Poland was Jan Laski, who has become best known for his work in England as John a Lasco. Whereas Sigismund II's father was strongly opposed to it, his son was tolerant or was even favourable towards the Protestant movement. Four of the five pieces by Szamotuł are taken from two hymnals, the Zamoyski Hymnal and the Pulawy Hymnal respectively. These are also the soures of the pieces by Cyprian Bazylik. It is a shame that the booklet's liner-notes don't pay attention to him. He was not only a composer, but also a writer, poet and printer. Like Szamotuł, he first worked at the court (in the chancellery) and then moved to the court of Duke Mikołaj Radziwiłł, first as a musician and later as a translator of Calvinist publications.

The programme recorded here is interesting for historical, literary, religious and musical reasons. It shows how gradually the vernacular became increasingly important in religious life. It also sheds light on the religious landscape in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, something most people outside the region know little about. The fact that some of the items recorded here were intended for both Catholics and Protestants attests to the fact - that we also know from Germany - that in musical matters there was no watershed between the different confessions. Lastly, the repertoire performed here belongs among a genre that one won't hear on the concert platform and also seldom in recordings. In the wake of the Reformation a large number of hymnbooks were produced during the 16th and 17th centuries, consisting of relatively simple songs in the vernacular, and mostly in rhymed verses, which were to be sung either in church or at home. It is important that some of this repertoire is recorded on disc, making it available to a wider circle than those to whose musical and religious heritage it may belong.

The performances are exactly right. No attempt has been made to treat these pieces as 'art music'; they are performed in a rather simple and straightforward way, just as they may have been performed in the 16th century. The participation of instruments is not required, but just one of the possible ways to perform these pieces. They reflect the variety of performance practice in the time they were written, dependent on the possibilities of those who owned the collections of Psalms and sacred songs. Some are performed instrumentally and the programme is extended with some instrumental works from the time, which helps to put the vocal items into their historical context. All the performers do an excellent job here. Singing and playing leave nothing to be desired. It is a shame that the booklet omits English translations of the lyrics. However, even without them, the music can be enjoyed.

(*) An interesting article on the Reformation in Poland is here.

Johan van Veen (© 2024)

Relevant links:

Maciej Gocman
Nora Petročenko
Ensemble Morgaine

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