Symphony No. 7 "Seven Gates of Jerusalem"
Olga Pasichnyk (soprano); Aga Miko=B3aj (soprano); Ewa Marciniec (alto);
Wies=B3aw Ochman (tenor); Romuald Tesarowicz (bass); Boris Carmeli
Warsaw National Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra/Antoni Wit.
Naxos 8.557766 (DDD) TT: 60:47
Summary for the Busy Executive: Fire and brimstone and more brimstone.
After kicking up his avant-gardiste heels in the Sixties, Penderecki
more or less settled down as a classic Modern. He turns out a lot of
music. Some pieces I find way better than others. I always feel a
tingle of suspense when I pick up a CD of his music. Delight or
Unfortunately, it's the latter for me, despite some fine movements.
Indeed, the movements make a better impression one at a time than all
together. In seven movements, corresponding to the seven gates (the
eighth gate of Jerusalem is reserved for the Messiah), the symphony
consists mainly of psalm settings and the dry-bones passage of Ezekiel.
The number seven apparently runs throughout the symphony, if you listen
hard enough. I confess I haven't. Something has gone wrong fundamentally
in this work. I'm not sure what. It suffers, however, from a kind of
artistic and spiritual bloat, a sameness of tone and tempo. Penderecki
sets even "happy" psalms the same way. Almost everything is pounding
Angst. Imagine Orff's "O fortuna" going on for close to an hour. I
feel bullied, rather than moved.
The performers, on the other hand, acquit themselves very well. I
shudder to think how much worse I would have felt about a conductor
less disciplined than Antoni Wit. The soloists, especially the sopranos,
meet their taxing parts with warmth and enthusiasm. The choral diction
pretty much crumbles to mush, although the singers do well enough by the
notes. Above all, however, this is Wit's show, and he does manage to
give you moments of genuine power.
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