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The Psalms of David settings from 1958 were a defining moment for Penderecki, confirming his belief that the human voice was the ultimate instrument. Sung in Polish, to the Jan Kochanowski text, rather than Latin, they have an additional resonance, and placing them last in this two-volume set is a nice way of showing how integral has been the composer’s work for voices over the last 50 years. Volume two also includes the recent Missa Brevis, a Kaddish, and O gloriosa Virginum for mixed choir, a brief but powerful statement of Polish Mariolatry, sung with restrained passion. The highlight of this sequence from Dux is the title piece of volume one, a reflective and nostalgic sequence that is the first since the Psalms of David that Penderecki decided to set in his native language and using a virtuosically selected range of contemporary and older texts. If the music seems to reference Chopin on various occasions, both in the voices and the orchestra, it is explained by the piece’s provenance as a commission for that composer’s bicentenary celebrations. Soloists and choir inhabit the music rather than merely delivering it and the integration of voices and instruments is flawless. A truly important modern recording.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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