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"Masters of the Past - Newly Discovered"

The Early Music Ensemble Diletto
Dir: Anna Moniuszko

rec: Nov 10 - 12, 2014, Bialystok, Ignacy Jan Paderewski Music School (Concert Hall)
Dux - 1175 (© 2015) (44'08")
Liner-notes: E/P; lyrics - translations: P
Cover & track-list

Just CASPAR (1717-1760): O Iesu mi dilecte; Simon Ferdinand LEICHLEITNER (1st half 18th C): Litaniae de Corde Jesu; Jacek SZCZUROWSKI (1716-1773): Litaniae in D

Marta Wróblewska*, Malgorzata Trojanowska, soprano; Jan Medrala*, Slawomit Bronk, alto; Maciej Gocman*, Piotr Szewczyk, tenor; Piotr Zawistowski*, Przemyslaw Kummer, bass
Tomasz Slusarczyk, Michal Tyranski, trumpet; Pawel Polak, Anna Polak, violin; Radoslaw Koper, viola; Tomasz Frycz, cello; Rafal Makarski, double bass; Krzysztof Garstka, organ
(*) soloists

It is always nice to listen to music you haven't heard before. That is certainly the case with the present disc which includes works by three composers two of whom have no entry in New Grove. That is probably not that surprising considering that they worked in Poland which can be viewed as on the borders of the European musical landscape. That said, there is nothing specifically Polish in their musical idiom. As with so many composers from their time across Europe they were under the influence of the Italian style.

The first two pieces on this disc have been preserved in the archive of the Piarist collegium in Podolinec (Polish: Podoliniec; today in northern Slovakia). The Piarist Order - officially called the Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools - was founded by Joseph Calasanctius and recognized as a religious congregation by the Holy See in 1617. Its main occupation was teaching children and youth, the primary goal being to provide free education for poor children. The first Piarist collegium in Poland was founded in 1642 in Warsaw, in the same year followed by one in Podolinec. The latter became one of the most flourishing Piarist centres in Poland. In 1668 a foundation was set up with the aim of training musicians for the church choir.

Very little is known about Simon Ferdinand Lechleitner. As his name suggests he was of German or Austrian birth, probably from Bavaria or the Tirol. His extant oeuvre includes 40 pieces; a further 28 are known from inventories but have been lost. According to the title page of a setting of Ave maris stella he was Kapellmeister of Prince Lubomirski, a member of a powerful family which had played a major role in Poland since the 10th century. The Litaniae de Corde Jesu date from 1734; one of the two extant copies of the vocal parts has been preserved with a different text. It is divided into nine sections for either tutti or one of the solo voices, with parts for two trumpets, two violins and bc. The trumpets participate in some of the tutti sections, and - significantly - in the solo for bass, which refers to the resurrection of man as a result of Jesus' Passion. Otherwise the role of the instruments is modest.

Things are quite different in the next work, by the Polish-born composer Jacek Szczurowski. He was probably from south-eastern Poland and entered a Jesuit monastery in Kraków as a novice. The Jesuits also ran a music college where Szczurowski received a musical education. He started to compose at an early age: the inventories of the Jesuit college from 1740/41 mention 38 pieces from his pen. Among them is a symphony, probably the first ever written by a Polish composer; unfortunately it has been lost. The Litaniae in D are also in nine sections, either for one of the solo voices or for the tutti. The instruments play a more prominent role than in Lechleitner's work: a number of sections open with an instrumental introduction, mostly by the two violins, but in the fifth, 'Speculum iustitiae' - a solo for alto - by the trumpets. The 7th section, 'Salus infirmorum', is for tenor solo and includes an obbligato part for the cello. The solos are arias which reflect the style of Neapolitan opera; however, they are not very virtuosic and don't include much coloratura.

Another operatic aria is the closing piece of the programme, O Iesu mi dilecte, by Just Caspar. Unlike the other two composers he was himself a Piarist. He was of Bohemian birth and received his musical education as a member of the Piarist Order. His extant oeuvre comprises 21 pieces, mostly sacred works but also music for theatrical performances in Piarist colleges. O Iesu mi dilecte is scored for soprano, two violins and bc.

This disc is an interesting example of the influence of Italian music at the edge of Europe. The first traces of the influences of the Italian style go back to the early 17th century. Nothing had changed since then. These three pieces show that Polish musicians were very well aware of what was going on elsewhere. The three works on this disc are by no means spectacular but they are well written and very pleasant to listen to. It is a shame that the lyrics are only translated into Polish. As these texts are not that common English translations are probably not that easy to find on the internet.

The performances are very good. The four singers who take care of the solo parts have nice voices and deliver stylish interpretations. In the tutti they are joined by four ripienists. The instrumental ensemble acts at the same level. In particular the trumpeters who have to play in the high clarino register, do an admirable job here. In the strings I would have liked a little more dynamic shading.

This is a disc for curious minds who would like to extend their musical horizon.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

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