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Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater is one of the glories of 20th-century sacred music, but too often performed by non-Polish musicians as if it were all perfumed romanticism instead of gutsy, self-reliant and stoical. The composer was almost singlehandedly reshaping a classical tradition for his country in the aftermath of world war and recovered independence. Perhaps assisted by the goral (playful, folksy) aesthetic of the ballet suite Harnasie, Gardner restores the great work as people’s music, modest in scale and forces, unusually individualistic for choral music – the three soloists only perform together near the end – and unfussy in its adaptation of ‘country’ scales for sacred use. It’s a performance that follows the composer closer in avoiding ‘garish elements’ or obtrusive emotions, and it delivers all the more for that.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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