musica Dei donum

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"Musica Sacra of the Wawel Cathedral"

The Royal Rorantists; Andrzej Bialko, organa
Dir: Stanislaw Galonski

rec: June 13, 2016, Cracow, Kosciól na Skalcea; June 14 - 16, 2016, Cracow, Church of Our Lady of Fatima
Dux - 1334 (© 2016) (59'32")
Liner-notes: E/P; lyrics - no translations
Cover, track-list & booklet

[in order of appearance] ["The Word of the Holy Father John Paul II"]; plainchant: Rorate caeli; Marcin PALIGON (fl 16th/17th C): Rorate caeli; JAN Z LUBLINA (fl c1540) (ed): Kyrie Fons bonitatisa; Christea; Ultimum Kyriea; Krzystof BOREK (?-after 1566): Missa Te Deum laudamus (Kyrie & Gloria); JAN Z LUBLINA (ed): Patrem sollemnea; Krzystof BOREK: Missa Te Deum laudamus (Credo); JAN Z LUBLINA (ed): Date siceram moerentibusa; Krzystof BOREK: Sanctus; JAN Z LUBLINA (ed): Tantum ergo sacramentuma; Bartlomiej PEKIEL (?-1670): Missa Pulcherrima (Benedictus); Tomasz SZADEK (1550?-1612): Officium in melodiam motetae Pisneme (Agnus Dei); JAN Z LUBLINA (ed): Non mortui laudabunt te Dominea; De profundis clamavia; Grzegorz Gerwazy GORCZYCKI (1665/67-1734): Sepulto Domino; JAN Z LUBLINA (ed): Salve Reginaa; WINCENTY Z KIELCZY (13th C), arr Teofil KLONOWSKI (1805-1876): Gaude mater Polonia

Zygmunt Magiera, Piotr Piwko, Mateusz Prendota, Blazej Wilinski, tenor; Maciej Michalik, Pawel Popowicz, baritone; Pawel Doronowski, Andrzej Wróbel, bass

In recent times the Polish label Dux has released quite a number of discs with music from Poland's musical heritage. That is especially important as most of this repertoire is hardly known, certainly in other parts of the world but maybe even in Poland itself. Usually these recordings are well documented. Therefore the booklet to the present disc is rather disappointing. There is some explanation of the name of the ensemble, which has a historical background, but there is no information whatsoever about the composers or the music.

The monarchy and the royal court played a key role in Polish music history. In particular King Sigismund I 'the Old' (1467-1548) was a great patron of the arts. He wanted to secure his place in the cultural history of his country with a sepulchral chapel in Wawel Cathedral in Cracow. He also founded the Collegium of Rorantists (Cappella Rorantistarum) whose duty was to sing in his chapel every day a Rorate Caeli mass. At the beginning, the Rorantists were a national ensemble, which consisted of priest-singers and composers who sang Polish music, but also pieces by the leading composers of the time, such as Palestrina and Lassus. In the course of time composers from elsewhere who settled in Poland also joined the Rorantists. The ensemble which performs the programme on this disc is called after this group; it is part of the Capella Cracoviensis and has added 'Royal' to its name to emphasize the connection of the Rorantists to the court.

The programme spans a period of about five hundred years. The earliest piece dates from the 13th century, but is heard here in a 19th century arrangement. As the booklet doesn't give any information about the music we have to guess in what way the original piece was arranged. The disc opens with an address by the late Pope John Paul II (in Polish and in Italian) during a visit of the Capella Cracoviensis in Rome in 1981. This lasts more than 11 minutes and severely diminishes this disc's value for those who don't understand either language. The booklet doesn't include translations, neither of this address nor of the vocal items.

The first musical item is Rorate caeli, the introit of the fourth Sunday of Advent. This same text is then sung in a polyphonic setting by Marcin Paligon. Nothing is known about him and this five-part motet is his only extant composition. Krzystof Borek was a singer at the royal court and was praepositus of the Cappella Rorantistarum around 1558. Two masses from his pen have been preserved, but both incomplete: the Missa Te Deum laudamus and an untitled mass, from which the Sanctus is taken. Tomasz Szadek was also a singer in the royal chapel in Cracow and also one of the Rorantists in the 1570s. His two main extant works are masses which are preserved in the library of Wawel Cathedral. The Officium in melodiam motetae Pisneme is based on the chanson Puis ne me peult venir by the French composer Thomas Crecquillon.

The exact date and place of Bartlomiej Pekiel's birth are not known. The German theorist Johann Mattheson claimed he was of German origin, but this remains unproven. He entered the court of King Wladyslaw IV in Warsaw sometime after 1633 and in 1641 he became vice-maestro di capella under Marco Scacchi. When the latter left the court in 1649 he took over his duties, although he was only officially appointed maestro di capella in 1653. Two years later Warsaw was captured by the Swedes and the court was dissolved. Pekiel moved to Cracow where he became director of music of the Wawel cathedral chapel. His best-known work is the Missa pulcherrima, to which name was added ad Praenestini - a reference to Palestrina which indicates that it is written in the stile antico of which Palestrina's music was considered a model.

Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki studied law at Prague University and then theology in Vienna. It was probably in 1690 that he moved to Cracow where he was ordained in 1692. In 1696 he was appointed penitentiary of Wawel Cathedral, and in 1698 he became director of music at the cathedral. Gorczycki composed music in the concertante style of his time, but the motet Sepulto Domino is written in the stile antico. Even so, it is different from the other pieces in the programme in regard to the connection between text and music.

The vocal items alternate with organ pieces by Jan z Lublina, outside Poland better known as John of Lublin. However, he can't be considered the composer of these pieces. They are taken from Tabulatura Ioannis de Lyublin canonic: regularium de Crasnyc 1540 which has survived in manuscript and is in fact a treatise on organ playing. It includes a large number of pieces which are intabulations of vocal items by various composers from all parts of Europe, among them Josquin, Janequin, Sandrin and Senfl. The track-list doesn't mention the names of the original composers. There is also no information about the organ Andrzej Bialko plays.

I really hope that this ensemble will continue to explore the repertoire which was sung by the Cappella Rorantistarum. I like the singing of the eight singers (four tenors, two baritones and two basses) who produce a clear and transparent sound. But I also hope that next projects will be better documented. A booklet like this doesn't help to make this repertoire better known and more appreciated. If we deduct the address by Pope John Paul II we are left with a playing time of less than 50 minutes. That is not a good argument for this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

Relevant links:

Capella Cracoviensis

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