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Polished gems

continues his occasional series
on East European music with
a visit to the Polish Royal Court

Multikulti    DUX 0264

Mielczewski (c) 1996 Multikulti Records


Here is a delight indeed. Baroque music of the Polish Royal Court -- under Wladyslaw IV, for instance, under whom composers like Jarzebski and Pekiel came to the fore -- was among the finest in Europe; and to judge from this, well abreast of French and Italian developments.

Marcin Mielczewski became bandmaster to Karol Ferdinand, brother to the monarch and prince-bishop of Plock (then Poland's second most important musical centre), in 1645 : the period when much of north east Europe was still reeling from the ravages wrought by Gustavus Adolphus's Swedish armies. The composer died six years later.

This disc contains some of the most attractive examples of the early Baroque genre I have encountered anywhere. There are hints of backward-facing, as one finds in, say, Praetorius or Rosenmüller, yet coupled with a superb assimilation of Monteverdian style, with much of the refinement of the contemporary French Baroque as well.

The first two items on the disc -- a thrilling 'Triumphalis Dies' [listen -- track 1, 0:00-1:10] and the beautifully varied 'Benedictio et Claritas' reveal the quality, too, of these two ensembles, Linnamuusikud from Tallin and the Bornus Ensemble, named after its director Marcin Bornus-Szczycinski. He adopts lively, spirited tempi; and every passage of the music is beautifully sculpted. The full choruses are animated, indeed they positively dance; the semichoruses, solos and verses -- of which Mielczewski makes frequent use -- are like polished gems, enhanced by attractive youngish voices. The instrumental ensemble -- strings, brass, continuo -- feels as fresh as if the music were composed yesterday.

The brisk canons of 'Laudate Pueri' [listen -- track 9, 0:12-1:10] challenge Monteverdi on his own ground. Michal Pospisil, the unvibratoed bass soloist in 'Deus in nomine tuo' is a little unrefined in timbre, yet the plaintiveness is such, and the well-led string ensemble so enchanting that even this retains its appeal. The shortish 'Dixit Dominus' is just one of the gems to be found on this disc; and even the short snatches of nasal plainsong framing the ensuing 'Confitebor' and 'Beatus Vir' are stylish. Altogether, a find in every respect -- composer, performers, plus a thoroughly pleasing, well-mastered sound throughout from the Polish Multikulti Company's Dux label, distributed in the UK by Red Hedgehog.


Copyright © 18 April 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK






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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Wednesday series of shorter CD reviews