musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Mikolaj ZIELENSKI (c1550 - c1615): "Ortus de Polonia"

Les Traversées de Baroque; Fiori Musicali
Dir: Etienne Meyer

rec: Oct 27 - 30, 2013, Saarburg, St. Laurentius
K617 - K617248 (© 2014) (59'39")
Liner-notes: E/F/P; no lyrics
Cover, track-list & booklet

Giovanni BASSANO (1560/61-1617): Introduxit me Rex (Palestrina) [1]; Giovanni GABRIELI (c1554/57-1612): Canzon VIII (C 202) [4]; In ecclesiis (C 78) [5]; Mikolaj ZIELENSKI (c1550 - c1615): Adoramus te, Christe [2]; Gloria et divitiae [3]; In virtute tua, Domine [3]; Laetentur caeli [3]; Magnificat [3]; Mirabilis Deus [3]; Mitte manum tuam [3]; Ortus de Polonia [3]; Posuisti Domine [3]; Salve festa Dies [3]; Visionem quam vidistis [2]; Vox in Rama [2]

[1] Giovanni Bassano, Motetti, madrigali et canzone francese di diversi eccellenti autori à quatro cinque, & sei voci. Diminuiti per sonar con ogni sorte di stromenti, & anco per cantar con semplice voce, 1591; Mikolaj Zielenski, [2] Communiones totius anni quibus in solennioribus festis Sancta Romana Ecclesia uti consuevit ad cantum organi, 1611; [3] Offertoria totius anni, quibus in festis omnibus Sancta Romana Ecclesia uti consuevit, 1611; Giovanni Gabrieli, [4] Canzoni et sonate, 1615; [5] Symphoniae sacrae ... liber secundus, 1615

[soli] Cécile Dibon-Lafarge, soprano; Anne Magouët, mezzo-soprano; Paulin Bündgen, Yann Rolland, alto; Vincent Bouchot, Benoît Haller, Hugues Primard, tenor; Cyrille Gautreau, Renaud Delaigue, bass
[ripieni] Marie-Carmen Assane, Eva-Luce Bailly, Léa Bertin, Marie-Charlotte Blanc, Jeanne Blavoux, Lucie Caffin, Eva Canoni, Justine Gouget, Charline Grenier, Marie-Apolline Joulié, Agathe Labadie, Joséphine Labadie, Marion Le Priol, Lisa Martin, Clémence Perrin, Adelaïde Sabatier, Julia-Maïa Usquin
Willam Dongois. Judith Paquier, Richard Seda, cornett; Adam Woolf, Pavel Novotný, Abel Rohrbach, Franck Poitrineau, sackbut; Anaïs Ramage, bassoon; Pierre Gallon, Laurent Stewart, organ

One of the fruits of the interest in early music which was stimulated by the emergence of historical performance practice is the exploration of music which was written outside the main music centres. One doesn't need to go as far as Latin America, although the investigation of the archives in that continent has brought us many treasures. Even in the central part of Europe there is a considerable repertoire which is seldom performed or recorded. That goes for the music of the 17th and 18th century from Poland. The present disc brings us extracts from two large collections of music by one of Poland's main composers of the early 17th century.

Little is known about Mikolaj Zielenski. It is only thanks to these two collections that we know that he was organist and director of music to Wojciech Baranowski, archbishop of Gniezno and primate of Poland from 1608. His publications were dedicated to the archbishop who himself was a fine singer and had his own vocal and instrumental ensemble at his court in Lowicz. He wanted Zielenski to compose offertories in modern style which could be used as Propers during the Mass.

One should not expect music in a kind of 'national style' here. Baranowski preferred the Italian style he had become acquainted with, and that is exactly what Zielenski presented to him. In his dedication he characterised his works as "Offertories and Communions composed for the first time by a Pole in the new style". That 'new style' was not what we know as stile nuovo, the concertato style which was introduced by the likes of Giulio Caccini. It was rather Giovanni Gabrieli who was the model for Zielenski's compositions. The fact that Zielenski used the words sacrae symphoniae as an alternative title for his editions attests to that as Gabrieli's own works were printed under that title. A large part of the offertories is written in the Venetian polychoral style, mostly for eight voices in two choirs. In some pieces the score includes indications for the use of instruments, especially sackbuts, but sometimes also strings. This bears witness to the participation of instruments in the performance practice of the time in Poland and legitimizes the use of instruments such as cornetts and bassoon, alongside sackbuts and organs, as in these performances. They are used either to support or to replace voices. A specimen of the latter practice is Salve festa Dies: in the second section the second choir is scored for sackbuts. This same piece also reflects the typical Venetian habit of juxtaposing a high choir and a low choir.

Although this music is dominated by counterpoint in 16th-century style there are certainly some elements of the concertato style. That goes especially for the communiones, such as Vox in Rama which shows a close connection between text and music leading to some striking dissonances and chromaticism. The Magnificat also includes passages which point to the influence of the stile nuovo in the way the text is depicted in the music.

The whole oeuvre of Zielenski has been recorded recently by the Collegium Zielenski and the Capella Cracoviensis, directed by Stanislaw Galonski (Dux). Several volumes have been reviewed here (vol. 1, vols. 2 and 3), and I was rather sceptical about the performances. I am much more impressed by the present disc. The interpretation is more up-to-date with the singers and the players fully mastering the idiom of the time. The recording is also far better. Thanks to that the text is mostly reasonably understandable although the inclusion of the lyrics in the booklet would have been more than helpful. In fact, a disc like this can't do without them and their omission is a serious shortcoming.

That should not discourage anyone who is interested in this kind of music from investigating this disc. Zielenski's music is highly enjoyable and can compete with much that was written by his Italian contemporaries. These performances impressively demonstrate its qualities.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

Relevant links:

Les Traversées Baroques

CD Reviews