Moniuszko: Masses / Wojnarowski, Boberska, Rehlis, Bartminski, Brek, Bialko, Et Al

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MONIUSZKO Latin Mass in D?. Funeral Mass in g. St. Peter’s Mass in B? • Henryk Wojnarowski, cond; Andrzej Bia?ko (org); Marta Boberska (sop); Agnieszka...

MONIUSZKO Latin Mass in D?. Funeral Mass in g. St. Peter’s Mass in B? Henryk Wojnarowski, cond; Andrzej Bia?ko (org); Marta Boberska (sop); Agnieszka Rehlis (alt); Rafa? Bartmi?ski (ten); Jaros?aw Br?k (bs); Warsaw PCh DUX 657 (76:42)

Stanis?aw Moniuszko (1819–1872) was born near Minsk (Polish territory at the time), grew up in Warsaw (then de facto Russian), and studied in Berlin (capital of the Prussian Province of Brandenburg). In part because of the (Polish) patriotic-nationalist sentiment ( à la Sibelius or Grieg) of his operas, he became the national Polish composer and remains so to this day. Only Karol Szymanowski and the “lost son” Frederic Chopin share a similar level of popularity. Moniuszko would make for an excellent introduction to a college primer on “Central European History in the 19th Century,” but the Polish record company Dux wisely focuses on his music instead.

Issued so far are songs of Moniuszko, his two string quartets, and two of his 10 operas. To that, Dux adds here three masses for organ and chorus: the Latin Mass in D? (1870), the Funeral Mass in G Minor (1871), and the Polish St. Peter’s Mass in B? (1871). The works, composed to “enrich, strengthen, console,” vacillate between Mozartean beauty and romanticized kitsch, but for most of their duration, the music stays on the sheerly beautiful, not shallow, side of things (and, I suppose, how to praise God, if not through beauty). The D? Kyrie and the Funeral Mass’s Offertorium are high points; how Moniuszko writes for two intertwining female voices—especially in the Benedictus of the St. Peter’s Mass—is wonderful to listen to. The Requiem eternam dabbles prettily: Romantic chill-out with a sacred veneer.

None of the soloists, native Polish singers, show real weaknesses (except, perhaps, the nasal tenor). The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir, directed by Henryk Wojnarowski, navigates ably through the simple scores. The Polish St. Peter’s Mass, which should be ideally suited for boys’ choir (with low voices), is as simple as the other two masses, though not as immediately appealing, apart from the aforementioned Benedictus. None of this is great music, but whether heard in church service or on CD, it is music that can be easily appreciated. If that doesn’t amount to making this a spectacular disc, it still makes it a beautiful one, most especially because of the Latin Mass. Easily recommended to those who like Romantic sacred music while being able to forgo bombast. The greatest effect it had on me—except for moments of extreme relaxation in rush-hour metro traffic—was a now awakened, very strong curiosity for his string quartets.

FANFARE: Jens F. Laurson

Product Description:

  • Release Date: April 28, 2009

  • UPC: 5902547006574

  • Catalog Number: DUX657

  • Label: DUX

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Stanislaw Moniuszko

  • Conductor: Henryk Wojnarowski

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Warsaw Philharmonic Chorus

  • Performer: Agnieszka Rehlis, Andrzej Bialko, Jaroslav Brek, Marta Boberska, Rafal Bartminsky