Concert Review: At the Court Of Krakow, Saturday 2nd July 2106

Live premier for Polish piece 300 years after it was written


It is a peculiarity that a piece of music written by a significant composer around 300 years ago should receive its UK premier – at least in modern times – at a concert in St Albans on Saturday.
But that appears to be the case with the setting of Psalm 122 by the Polish composer Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki, one of the composers featured in a programme of music from Poland staged by the St Albans Chamber Choir.

And, even though Borkowski’s Gloria II has been recorded on several occasions since it was written in 2012, Saturday saw the world premier live performance.

The concert at St Saviour’s Church linked music mainly from the late 16th and 17th centuries with contrasting modern works by Marian Borkowski and London born Roxanna Panufnik.

And it demonstrated the strong influence Italian music had on the Polish royal court and provided music of a style members of the chamber choir are well versed in singing. The result was that the early works were both well-sung and enjoyable.

Equally the chamber choir and conductor John Gibbons have a reputation for good performances of modern music and their handling of the Borkowski pieces and Roxanna Panufnik’s 2009 work All Shall be Well were fascinating.

The six Borkowski pieces all relied on a powerful use of vocal dynamics. Some were based on the use of a single word while others had no words at all with singers simply humming or using other vocal techniques to great effect.

Panufnik’s work, written in 2009, is for double choir and solo cello, in this case played by Michael Wigram. The work makes great use of dissonances and the pleasing tones of the cello bring it all together.

Also taking part in the concert were violinists Kamila Bydlowska from Poland and Joana Valentinaviciute from Lithuania who together with organist Nicholas Freestone joined the choir for the performance of Gorczycki’s Laetatus Sum. Kamila also performed an arrangement of a Chopin nocturne with John Gibbons at the piano.


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