KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI: A Sea of Dreams Did Breathe on Me – Olga Pasichnyk, sop./Ewa Marcienic, mezzo/Jaroslaw Bręk, bar./Warsaw Philharmonic Choir/Warsaw Philharmonic Orch./Antoni Wit – Naxos 8.573062, 56:24 (10/09/15) ****:
In my mind, Krzysztof Penderecki is absolutely one of the modern era’s most innovative and ingenious composers who has certainly earned a place in history. One of the things I admire about him the most is his life-long ability to find new directions in his music as the situation or his sources of inspiration dictate.
For example, there is the early ‘sound-mass’ and somewhat thorny sounding Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, Utrenja and similar works. Then his music took a turn for the para-Romantic; complete with his own use of motives and signature fragments of almost theatrical drama as in the opera Paradise Lost, the Violin Concerto or the Polish Requiem. Now this spectacular song cycle for soloists, chorus and orchestra, A Sea of Dreams did Breathe on Me, barely sounds like any “version” of Penderecki you may be familiar with.
The harmonies, melodies and somewhat delicate, in places, orchestration may remind you of Ravel, touches of Saariaho; some Stravinsky perhaps. There is even a fairly prominent saxophone part to catch your attention. It is nearly impossible to describe its unusual and unexpected character – save a bass clarinet solo near the end of “The Enchanted Garden” that is nearly straight out of Paradise Lost (or the Violin Concerto.) Yet, this piece does settle in throughout its captivating nearly hour long run to sound more and more like the Penderecki we know.
This work was written in 2010 for the Chopin bicentennial and its texts come from the writings of several historical and extant Polish poets; including Tadeusz Micinski and Stefan Witwicki. I found it helpful and meaningful to follow the text throughout the course of the work for Penderecki’s word-painting and centering the mood in music is spot on. Reading along is also, though, not fully necessary to appreciate the scope and grandeur of this work. The sound, the palpable emotion and the exquisite orchestrations are enough, to me, to give this piece weight and drama.
Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic have recorded many of Penderecki’s works for Naxos and this is yet another wherein the performances are of the highest quality and so is the sound engineering. I loved this piece and the recording, itself, and I imagine any fan of Penderecki would find this exceptionally rewarding. Highly recommended!