BARTLOMIEJ PEKIEL: Missa a14; Resonet in laudibus; Dulcis amor Jesu; Magnum nomen Domini; Audite mortals; O adoranda Trinitas; Nativitas tua; Missa Concertata “La Lombardesca”; Assumpta est Maria – The Sixteen/ Eamonn Dougan – Coro Cor16110, 65:59 [Distr. by Allegro] (6/11/13) ***:
This is one of a series of discs dedicated to the composers of the Polish Baroque. The royal courts at Krakow and Warsaw boasted some of the finest composers of the age, many of them recruited from Italy, and who passed on their considerable knowledge to the native composers. The very first of these was Bartlomiej Pekiel (c. 1633 – 1670), a man who set the standard for a generation of Polish composers to come. He was prolific, and wrote polyphonic masses, instrumental masses, motets, all bearing the stamp of composers as diverse as Monteverdi, Carissimi, and Palestrina. As a composer he was quite a success, holding important positions in the royal court most of his life.
The variety of works here are a good example of his eclectic style, even if one does come away with the impression that there was still a lot of technical achievement ahead of him that was never quite attained. While there are sacred dialogs, intense moments of color, instrumental accompaniment to some pieces, and polyphonic writing that is substantial and fulsome, his motets and choral songs given here sound like they enjoyed a distinctively Protestant influence, perhaps the result of his contacts with some German or Swedish composers, where his work was evidently well-received. Or it could be that the simplicity of the musical reforms of the Counter-reformation were taken very seriously, as the Emperor of Poland, the Swede Sigismund III Vasa, whose mother was a devote Catholic, kept a close eye on the developments of the time as he was anxious to promote the influence and decisions of the Council of Trent. Whatever the reason, one can listen to the highly Palestrina-influenced Missa Concertata “La Lombardesca” and contrast it with the extraordinary homophony of Resonet in laudibus and not have any idea that the two are by the same composer.
This is a worthy recording in rather too-close sound of liturgical music by a man who was certainly talented (only 29 of his pieces have come down to us) but not a collection that I would recommend to newcomers to the period and genre. Seasoned listeners will find it of some interest, and the Sixteen (with instruments) perform it admirably.