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Cyprian BAZYLIK (c1535 - c1600): "Opera omnia"

Ensemble Jerycho
Dir: Bartosz Izbicki

rec: June 19 - 24, 2023, Brochów, [Basilica of St John the Baptist and St Roch]
Dux - 2030 (© 2023) (74'38")
Liner-notes: E/PL; lyrics - translations: E
Cover & track-list

anon: Modlitwa ludu pospolitego; Cyprian BAZYLIK: Benedictio mensae; Czasu tego to zarania; Iż to już jest nie tajno każdemu; Już wzeszło światło słoneczne; Mądrość Ojca wszechmocnego; Nabożna piosnka; Oratio Dominica; Pan Bóg wszechmogący; Panie Boże wszechmocny; Pożegnaj nas, Boże Ojcze; W Tobie, Panie, nadzieję mam; Wspominając początek żywota naszego; Wszytcy są błogosławieni; Z głębokości grzechów moich; Z ochotnym sercem Ciebie wysławiam, mój Panie; Zaniechaj towarzystwa

Małgorzata Izbicka, Barbara Sobolewska, soprano; Alicja Sulkowska, soprano, timpani; Paweł Szczyciński, Mateusz Grzyb, alto; Wawrzyniec Dąbrowski, Maciej Królikowski, tenor; Łukasz Kalisz, Stanisław Szczyciński, bass
Justyna Rekść-Raubo, viola da gamba; Jan Kiernicki, lute; Henryk Kasperczak, chitarrone; Przemysław Pogocki, archlute, guitar; Bartosz Izbicki, virginal, regal, organ

Recently I published a review with music in the tradition of the Reformation in Poland ("Evening Song"). One of the composers represented in the programme is Cyprian Bazylik. The disc to be reviewed here is entirely devoted to his oeuvre. The title suggests that it is offering his complete oeuvre, but that is not entirely correct. More about that later.

His existence is first documented for 1550, when he was enrolled in the Cracow Academy with the name of Ciprianus Mathiae Siradiensis; the latter part of his name refers to the place of his birth, Sieradz. A few years after finishing his studies he became a courtier to Sigismund Augustus, who confirmed his ennoblement in 1557. One year later he entered the service of the Calvinist Duke Mikołaj Radziwiłł in Vilnius. He played in the court chapel, where he became the colleague of Wacław z Szamotuł. As a composer he wrote polyphonic works, most of which were included in the Zamoyski Hymnal. In the 1560s he settled in Brest-Litovsk, where he was active as a printer and as a translator. He also made a name as a poet. In 1569 he became secretary at the court of Olbracht Łaski, voivode at Sieradz.

Bazylik's extant oeuvre is not large; all that has come down to us dates from before 1559. Whether this means that a part of his output has been lost or that in later years he focused on literature rather than music, is not known. What has been preserved are twelve songs for four voices and four monophonic songs. One piece for three voices is attributed to him.

The programme opens with a Polish translation of the Lord's Prayer (Oratio Dominica). It is written in the most simple form of polyphony, known as 'note against note'. The same technique is used in Wspominając początek żywota naszego. As mentioned, several pieces are monophonic; they are performed here in four-part harmonizations made by Bartosz Izbicki. One of them is Już wzeszło światło słoneczne; another one is Czasu tego to zarania.

Iż to już jest nie tajno każdemu in which the author of the text, Iakub Lubelczjk, identified himself in the way of an acrostic. As I mentioned, this recording does not really include the complete oeuvre of Bazylik, as we only get four stanzas of this song, which nullifies the acrostic. The same is the case with another piece that includes an acrostic: Z ochotnym sercem Ciebie wysławiam, mój Panie. Also shortened is Psalm 36 (37), Zaniechaj towarzystwa. The setting of Psalm 129 (130), Z głębokości grzechów moich, is based on the melody of Martin Luther's Aus tiefer Not. Pan Bóg wszechmogący is in three parts, and is attributed to Bazylik; again it is performed here in four parts, with the additional alto part written by Izbicki. The programme fittingly closes with a blessing of the table, Błogosławieństwo stołu.

I mentioned that three pieces are performed incomplete. There is another and more serious reason why this disc does not include the complete works by Bazylik, and that is a technical error. In track 13 we should get a versification in Polish of the Magnificat (Wielbi duszo moja Pana). However, that is omitted; in fact we get Panie Boże wszechmocny, a setting of Psalm 78 (79), which is allocated to track 14 in the booklet. Tracks 14 and 16 are identical: they both include W Tobie, Panie, nadzieję mam, a setting of Psalm 30 (31). This is a major gaffe, and it is not just my copy that has this problem. I found it also on some of the major platforms, including Spotify (*). I have left a comment on the label's website, but did not receive any reply.

Most pieces are performed by a combination of voices and instruments, which is explained in the booklet. Basically there is no objection against this practice, but one may wonder how frequently they were used, given that pieces from hymnals may have been intended for domestic performance by amateurs in the first place. Especially the use of percussion in some of the pieces seems questionable. In some pieces the singers turn to a kind of folk style, which I find rather odd and does not convince me at all. The singing and playing are generally very good, but I find some decisions with regard to performance practice rather problematic.

Even so, I would recommend this disc if it had not been damaged by the technical problem I mentioned above. It is to be hoped that the record company does correct it and is going to offer a technically correct version for downloading.

(*) It seems that the disc has been removed from Spotify.

Johan van Veen (© 2024)

Relevant links:

Ensemble Jerycho

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