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Mikolaj ZIELENSKI (c.1550 - c.1615)
Ortus de Polonia
Ortus de Polonia [2:32]
Mirabilis Deus [3:17]
Mitte manum tuam [2:47]
In virtute tua, Domine [3:45]
Adoramus te, Christe [2:41]
Giovanni GABRIELI (c.1554/57-1612)
Canzon VIII [5:15]
In ecclesiis [7:45]
Vox in Rama [3:44]
Laetentur caeli [2:54]
Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA (1525/26-1594)/arr. Giovanni BASSANO (1560/61-1617)
Introduxit me Rex [3:51]
Posuisti Domine [4:01]
Visionem quam vidistis [2:35]
Salve festa Dies [4:28]
Gloria et divitiae [3:02]
Magnificat [6:51]
Les Traversées Baroques, Fiori Musicali/Etienne Meyer
rec. 2013, Saint-Laurent, Saarburg, Germany. DDD
No texts included
K617 K617248 [59:39]

One of the fruits of the interest in early music which was stimulated by the emergence of historical performance practice is the exploration of music which was written outside the main music centres. One doesn't need to go as far as Latin America, although the investigation of the archives in that continent has brought us many treasures. Even in the central part of Europe there is a considerable repertoire which is seldom performed or recorded. That goes for the music of the 17th and 18th century from Poland. The present disc brings us extracts from two large collections of music by one of Poland's main composers of the early 17th century.

Little is known about Mikolaj Zielenski. It is only thanks to these two collections that we know that he was organist and director of music to Wojciech Baranowski, archbishop of Gniezno and primate of Poland from 1608. His publications were dedicated to the archbishop who himself was a fine singer and had his own vocal and instrumental ensemble at his court in Lowicz. He wanted Zielenski to compose offertories in modern style which could be used as Propers during the Mass.

One should not expect music in a kind of 'national style' here. Baranowski preferred the Italian style he had become acquainted with, and that is exactly what Zielenski presented to him. In his dedication he characterised his works as "Offertories and Communions composed for the first time by a Pole in the new style". That 'new style' was not what we know as stile nuovo, the concertato style which was introduced by the likes of Giulio Caccini. It was rather Giovanni Gabrieli who was the model for Zielenski's compositions. The fact that Zielenski used the words sacrae symphoniae as an alternative title for his editions attests to that as Gabrieli's own works were printed under that title. A large part of the offertories is written in the Venetian polychoral style, mostly for eight voices in two choirs. In some pieces the score includes indications for the use of instruments, especially sackbuts, but sometimes also strings. This bears witness to the participation of instruments in the performance practice of the time in Poland and legitimizes the use of instruments such as cornetts and bassoon, alongside sackbuts and organs. They are used either to support or to replace voices. A specimen of the latter practice is Salve festa Dies: in the second section the second choir is scored for sackbuts. This same piece also reflects the typical Venetian habit of juxtaposing a high choir and a low choir.

Although this music is dominated by counterpoint in 16th-century style there are certainly some elements of the concertato style. That goes especially for the communiones, such as Vox in Rama which shows a close connection between text and music. This leads to some striking dissonances and chromaticism. The Magnificat also includes passages which point to the influence of the stile nuovo in the way the text is depicted in the music.

The whole oeuvre of Zielenski has been recorded recently by the Collegium Zieleński and the Capella Cracoviensis, directed by Stanisław Galoński (Dux). They have received a mixed reception from reviewers on this site (review ~ review). I was one of them and was rather sceptical about the performances. I am much more impressed by the present disc. The interpretation is more up-to-date with the singers and the players fully mastering the idiom of the time. The recording is also far better. Thanks to that the text is mostly reasonably understandable although the inclusion of the lyrics in the booklet would have been more than helpful. In fact, a disc like this can't do without them and their omission is a serious shortcoming.

That should not discourage anyone who is interested in this kind of music from investigating this disc. Zielenski's music is highly enjoyable and can compete with much that was written by his Italian contemporaries. These performances impressively demonstrate its qualities.

Johan van Veen


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