* Te Deum
Jadwiga Gadulanka (soprano); Ewa Podles (mezzo); Wieslaw Ochman (tenor);
Andrzej Hiolski (baritone); Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir in
Dux 0402 Total time: 43:34
Summary for the Busy Executive: Sleeping in church.
Penderecki has had a fairly interesting career. From the large-scale
chorus-and-orchestra avant-garde pieces of the Sixties, he turned to
consolidating his innovations and welding them to the European musical
tradition. He's written masterpieces throughout his career, but he's
also written dreck. Indeed, one finds dreck and masterpiece standing
side by side. There's always the mystery of the Lucky Dip when a listener
confronts a Penderecki work one hasn't heard before, entirely due to
the composer's variability. In general, I'm not particularly fond of
Penderecki's choral music, particularly the stuff from about 1980 on.
Fans will probably call it "all of a piece." It seems to derive from
the music of the Russian Orthodox Church. To me, it's usually a pale,
flabby imitation, rather than anything truly original or necessary. The
late religious music strikes me as too generic, too much like the automatic
piety of a "savin' Susie." It may be sincere, but it's hardly convincing.
The two pieces here come from roughly the same period. The Te Deum
of 1980 is a big work -- sprawling, really -- which never moves with
any juice. It's almost as if to Penderecki more notes equals more
expressiveness. Rather than finding the *right* notes, he appears to
want to impress by sheer weight. On the other hand, the Lacrimosa,
written as a tribute to the Gdansk shipyard workers, fares a little
better, because it occasionally manages to focus. It's very much in the
vein of the Gorecki Third, working the conventions of funeral music at
a lugubrious tempo. I can't say I care for it enough to want to hear
it again (I'm not wild about the Gorecki third, either), but it's not
The performances are okay, with the soloists standing out. Penderecki
himself leads, and presumably this is how he wants the music to go.
The Te Deum was muddy, but that may not be the performers' fault. If
you liked the Lacrimosa, you'd probably call the performance "hypnotic."
If not, "comatose."