Warsaw National Philarmonic Chorus - chorus director Henryk Wojnarowski, National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Cracow Boy's Choir - chorus director Bronistawa Wietrzny
Baritone Vocals - Stephen Roberts
Bass Vocals - Kurt Rydl
Choir - Cracow Boy's Choir, Warsaw National Philharmonic Chorus
Chorus Master - Bronistawa Wietrzny, Henryk Wojnarowski
Composed By, Conductor - Krzysztof Penderecki
Narrator - Edward Lubaszenko
Orchestra - Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Soprano Vocals - Sigune Von Osten
========= from the cover ==========
Argo seeks to explore music in four specific areas - choral, organ, British and American. The attraction of these areas is the range of music available to be discovered and enjoyed. Argo's starting point is music, and it does not confine itself to any historical period. Good music, familiar and unfamiliar, old and new, will be found on Argo. Its specialisation enables it to concentrate on making a product of the highest calibre by interesting repertoire planning and discriminating artist choice. Argo's credo is to challenge and to stimulate, to entertain and to educate. It seeks to provide the finest performances, recorded to the highest standards and make them available internationally for all music lovers.
This recording was made in December 1989 in the Cathedral of Christ the King (Bazylika Katedralna Chrystusa Krola), Katowice, Poland. It was made using Neumann M50, TLM170 and Schoeps MK21 microphones and Mitsubishi 32-track digital tape recorder. It was remixed in the Decca Recording Centre using Decca 16-track digital mixer and delay lines onto Decca digital stereo system. Producer: Chris Hazell Engineers: Simon Eadon, John Dunkerley Tape editor: Matthew Hutchinson
Penderecki's St. Luke Passion
Structure of the Work
The Passion begins with a traditional Latin hymn, Vexilla regis proderunt (Carry the banner of the king), which serves as an introduction to the gospel text. Written in the seventh century by one of the first great hymnists, Venantius Fortunatus, it is used liturgically at the end of the Holy Thursday service. It is sung while the altar is stripped, the tabernacle is opened and the blessed sacrament is taken away, symbolically representing the arrest of Jesus with which the gospel story begins. Penderecki displays much of his musical palette in this opening section. It begins with a strong unison which "resolves" to a 12-tone chord. An a cappella section follows which moves freely and is based on the B-A-C-H theme. There are glissandi in the chorus, sprechstimme, and a beautiful a cappella melody to the text te fons salutis (thou font of salvation.) The Evangelist then begins the story with Christ praying on the Mount of Olives and the baritone, who portrays Jesus throughout, singing Christ's words. This moves into a setting of Psalm 22 (which again is part of the Good Friday liturgy) set for baritone and chorus. The scene ends with a somewhat agitated soprano solo.
The second scene begins with an orchestral section followed by the narration of Jesus' betrayal by Judas. The scene closes with a choral lament taken from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, followed by a beautiful a cappella setting of the first verse of Psalm 10, ending with the Domine cadence. It is interesting that while the Passion calls for enormous musical forces, there are many places like this in which Penderecki uses small ensembles, providing music of elegant simplicity and clarity.
The third scene centers around Peter's denial. The chorus begins the narrative with sprechstimme, each chorus with the same text but offset from each other, like a crowd of people all eagerly trying to tell their version of the story. The bass solo takes the part of Peter and the chorus his accusers. After the narrator finishes the story there is a short bass aria pleading for forgiveness.
The fourth scene recounts Jesus being mocked and beaten after his arrest. It begins with very agitated orchestral music with the chorus joining in with rapid percussive sounds like a noisy mob, followed by mocking laughter. After Jesus responds to his tormentors, the soprano solo returns to the text from the Lamentation of Jeremiah and the chorus closes with an extended a cappella psalm. The distributed text can clearly be heard as divisi basses begin with the word miserere (have mercy). The melody is again based on the B-A-C-H theme.
The final scene of Part I begins with an orchestral introduction in which the chorus eventually joins in wordless humming. The chorus shouts out accusations against Jesus in front of Pilate, with Jesus responding. The chorus picks up the narration alternately speaking and using sprechstimme as Jesus is sent to Herod and back again to Pilate. The bass solo, as Pilate, tries to release Jesus, but the crowd shouts for Barabbas instead, and the scene ends with the chorus shouting "Crucify him!"
The first scene of Part II begins with a brief choral psalm, followed by a lengthy processional as Jesus carries his cross to Golgotha. The text is from the Improperia (The Reproaches), taken again from the Good Friday liturgy. The scene ends with a chanted invocation in both Greek and Latin asking for mercy.
Scene seven begins with the Evangelist briefly recounting the crucifixion. The soprano solo follows with a portion of the hymn Pange lingua (Sing, my tongue). This is not the familiar hymn by St. Thomas Aquinas but rather another hymn by Fortunatus. This is also part of the Good Friday liturgy, sung as the cross, veiled in purple cloth, is carried in. The chorus follows with Ecce lignum crucis (Behold the wood of the cross), the antiphon sung as the cross is gradually uncovered.
The eighth scene follows Jesus on the cross. He asks the Father to forgive those who crucified him while the soldiers gamble for his clothes. The chorus returns to Psalm 22, and Penderecki produces some of his most eerie, chilling music for the text dinumeraverunt omnia ossa mea (I can count all my bones.) The crowd mocks Jesus, with the chorus again making buzzing, percussive sounds and derisive laughter. The two thieves join in with the chorus taking the words of the first and the bass solo taking the part the second.
The ninth scene opens with a brief narration after which Jesus addresses his mother from the cross. The chorus follows with the hymn Stabat mater (There stands the sorrowful mother). Penderecki originally composed this as a stand-alone piece for a cappella chorus and later used it as the foundation upon which he built the Passion. It was in this piece that he developed many of the techniques he later employed for the Passion, including distributed text and both spoken and whispered sprechstimme. The Stabat mater ends with a massive D-major chord.
The final scene is the death of Christ on the cross. Jesus utters his final words, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," and one of the boys' voices echoes "It is finished." There is an orchestral interlude and then the chorus begins the last section with fragments of music from the previous sections. The boys' choir then introduces the comforting words of Psalm 31 (In you, O Lord, I put my trust). The chorus joins in and the intensity builds until the Passion ends on a glorious E-major chord.
- Michael Moore (2002 Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia)