WOJCIECH KILAR: Angelus; Exodus; Victoria – Anna Fabrello, sop. (Angelus)/ Var. Polish choirs/ Stanislaw Moniuszko Music Academy, Gdansk Sym. Orch./ Zygmunt Rychert – Dux 0966, 47:34 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
Kilar, who died last December, was a famed Polish classical and film music composer. He came to prominence in the West with his award-winning scores for first Coppola’s Dracula and then Polanski’s The Pianist. (Although on the latter only a 1:52-length cue was used in the final score; most of the music was by Chopin, Bach and Beethoven.) He had also scored Polanski’s Death and the Maiden and The Nine Gate, as well as Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady. He belonged to the Polish avant-garde movement of the ‘60s but eventually turned to a more simplified musical language, with large masses of sound serving as a backdrop to melodies. A number of his works reference Polish folk music, and most are quite accessible and tonal. His music has been compared to that of Gorecki, Orff and Penderecki.
Exodus may be one of the composer’s most striking works, in the style of Ravel’s Bolero in its inexorable rhythm and melody continuing with increased instrumentation and volume to the very end—its emotions intensifying with every repetition. It was used as the music for the trailer for Schindler’s List. The 21-minute piece refers to the Book of Exodus concerning the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt. Using an old Jewish melody, it gave Poles confidence and hope at the time of the Solidarity movement. There are other recordings of the work, but this one really brings it across strongly and is highly recommended.
Angelus is a work for soprano, mixed choir and orchestra in which Kilar wanted to write concentrated and mediative music like a man’s response to the gift of a meeting with God. It opens with the choir reciting aloud the rosary prayer, without any music. Soprano Fabrelli hits some high notes towards the end that are truly amazing to hear. The short Victoria, for choir and orchestra, was composed in anticipation of a visit to Poland in 1983 by Pope John Paul II.
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