Krzysztof Penderecki: Credo (Hänssler Classics)
The Polish composer died a year ago next week and still awaits a funeral. The constraints of COVID and the demands of family and friends for a state occasion have led to delays and deferrals, a sad coda to a life of service to God and man.
Although acclaimed as a modernist, Penderecki never supped easily with the atheistic avant-garde and always lit up when opportunity arose to compose a work that celebrated his Roman Catholic faith. The Credo, co-commissioned in 1996 by Stuttgart’s Bach academy and the Oregon Bach Festival, is infused with a sense of liberation, a release from having to please anyone below the angels.
It is richly textured and profusely melodic. There are passages which recall Stravinsky of the Symphony of Psalms and Maher’s Resurrection Symphony, but Penderecki does not look over his shoulder for long. He finds moments of memorable originality for five soloists — soprano Juliane Banse, bass Thomas Quasthoff, tenor Thomas Randle and mezzos Marietta Simpson and Milagro Vargas — keeping them fresh for a huge apotheosis with the Oregon orchestra and chorus, conducted by Helmut Rilling. The climaxes are sensational, some of the strongest music Penderecki ever created. This live recording of the Oregon premiere takes us back to a time when a remote American campus festival was ambitious enough to engage with the best living composers. We may never see its like again.
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