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Bartlomiej Pekiel: Missa Concertata La Lombardesca [The Sixteen] [Coro: COR16110]

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  • Conductor: Eamonn Dougan
  • Composer: Bartlomiej Pekiel
  • Audio CD (3 Jun. 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Coro
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 137,695 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

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Bartlomiej Pekiel was one of the most eminent Polish composers of choral music of the 17th century. He served at the court in Warsaw from around 1633 and was assistant to Marco Scacchi at the Chapel Royal in Warsaw before becoming Kapellmeister himself from 1645-1655 - the first non-Italian to hold the post. He then moved to Wawel Cathedral in Krakow where he wrote for the Rorantist vocal ensemble.

Just 29 of his compositions survive today and on this new album by The Sixteen under the direction of Associate Conductor, Eamonn Dougan, we present 10 of his works for choir and orchestra including the Missa Concertata La Lombardesca resplendent with double choir, violins and sackbuts and the extraordinary and dramatic Audite mortals.

In this recording dedicated solely to his works, Pekiel shows himself to be a skilled craftsman, mastering the techniques taught by the Italian maestri, but also imbuing his works with his own particular harmonic colour in all the varied styles in which he writes.


His name may be unfamiliar, but Polish composer Bartomiej Pekiel (c1633-1670) was a force in baroque vocal music, challenging the dominance of Italy whose influence had spread to the major cities of Krakow and Warsaw where he worked and producing a wealth of mainly religious music of which 29 works survive. The Sixteen and their associate conductor, Eamonn Dougan, perform the Missa a 14, the richly dramatic, multilayered Missa Concertata La Lombardesca with its vivid sackbut accompaniment and double choir, and the intriguing mini-drama, Audite mortales. The sound world, very loosely, brings to mind Monteverdi. The exciting dissonances and strange harmonic colours set Pekiel in a category of his own. --Observer, 26/05/13

Bartomiej Pekiel (roughly pronounced as Bart-wo-meeyay Poun-kyel) was arguably the finest Polish composer of the mid-1600s, no mean feat given his homeland s contemporary prominence among Europe s largest countries. He broke the grip of Italians on the post of music director of the chapel royal in Warsaw, rising to the top job in 1653 before becoming director of music at Kraków's Wawel Cathedral. His modern revival gained momentum two decades ago with the launch of a fine complete Pekiel edition and stands to gain from the release of this delightful recording on the Coro label, made with support from Poland's Adam Mickiewicz Institute. The Sixteen and their associate conductor Eamonn Dougan underline the high quality of Pekiel's surviving works, boldly stated in the 'Kyrie' and 'Gloria' [tracks 1 & 2] from his so-called Missa a 14 for eight voices and instruments and eloquently expressed in the touching simplicity of the unaccompanied Marian motets 'Assumpta est Maria' and 'Ave Maria' [tracks 11 & 13]. Pekiel is at his considerable best in the majestic sacred dialogue 'Audite mortales' [track 6] and 'Dulcis amor Jesu' [track 4], compositions clearly inspired by the highly expressive style of new music imported from Italy. The latter's fruity dissonances and contrasting moods receive full care and attention from an ace vocal quintet backed by flamboyant theorbo playing from David Miller. While the performing group for the 'Missa Concertata La Lombardesca' is not large, it packs a fair punch when required and eloquently projects the music's wide expressive variety.*** --Sinfini Music, 20/06/13

The choral sound is well focused in the men-only Ave Maria and the mini duets for sopranos are stylish. A delightful performance. Performance **** Recording ***** --BBC Music magazine, Sept'13

Sit back and relish this treasure trove which has clearly been prepared with passion. GRAMOPHONE CHOICE --Gramophone. Sept'13

The Sixteen turn in polished performances, clearly enjoying the many opportunities for the solo work with which Pekiel provides them. --IRR, Sept'13

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Hard to say much more. Beautiful singing of comparatively rare choral Polish music. Great sound. Highly recommended! Just buy it....
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impeccable performance of worthy, little known Baroque sacred music. 11 Aug. 2013
By Dracontius - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The Sixteen seem here poised to do for seventeenth-century Polish sacred music what they have already done for Portuguese Music of the same period: not so much record it for the first time, but record it with a perfection that underlines its universal aesthetic value. Bartlomiej Pekiel is obscure to most people, but a personal favorite of mine. Be that is it may, this recording has turned out as good as I hoped for, if not better. The precision and evenness of tone of the singers, as well as the `close-up' recording acoustic helps bring out the variety and interest of Pekiel's fine contrapuntal textures, especially in the stile antico pieces. The Sixteen also do justice to the occasionally ravishing beauty of his unique "take" on the universal tonal language of the seventeenth century. In one sense this disc gives a fine overview of Pekiel's output as a composer, stressing the variety of sacred genres he contributed to. In another sense, it is not very representative, in that they have chosen to record all the handful of surviving stile moderno pieces (according to the CD booklet preserved mainly in German Lutheran sources) that have come down to us from Pekiel, but only a small selection of the a cappella or cappella with continuo pieces. These latter are predominantly late works preserved in Polish sources, and they survive in larger numbers.

Compared to some of the other composers of the Polish Royal Chapel of the late Renaissance and Early Baroque, like Marenzio, Kasper Forster Jr., or Mielczewski, Pekiel stands out in my mind for the often intense introversion and personal nature of much of his music, even in the grandly-scored festal masses. For example, take his frequent use of such devices as sudden, chiaroscuro-like shifts of harmonies in a darker direction, as in the Missa Lombardesca here recorded, where most the chords are major--but the key center turns out to be minor. This kind of emotional tension, meditative-toned spirituality, and often melancholy-tinged moods are typical of his music, but might not appeal to every taste, especially in a `listen through' of CD- length. Yet, thoughtfully, two of his three surviving Christmas carol settings--much lighter in tone--are included here, and serve as a welcome change of mood.

In sum, this is a fine disk that can be recommended strongly, especially to lovers of late Renaissance and early Baroque sacred music.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An appealing album of unusual repertoire 9 Aug. 2013
By John J. Puccio - Published on
Most fans of early music will recognize The Sixteen, the choir and instrumental group formed by Harry Christophers in 1979 and specializing in tunes of the Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical periods. What early music fans might not recognize so readily is the name Bartlomiej Pekiel (fl. 1633-1670), a prominent Polish composer of choral music in the seventeenth century who has today obviously gone out of style. Nevertheless, under the direction of singer and conductor Eamonn Dougan, The Sixteen here perform several of Pekiel's few surviving compositions for choir and instruments, providing a fascinating glimpse into the music of a long-gone era.

Pekiel was the first non-Italian to rise to the position of Royal Maestro di Cappella, and as the disc's booklet notes explain "set a benchmark for all native Polish musicians." Mostly, he worked in the liturgical field, which we would expect, writing masses and such.

On the present disc, The Sixteen's Associate Conductor Eamonn Dougan leads the group first in several selections from Missa a14 (the Kyrie and Gloria, the only surviving parts). There follows a series of other songs, motets, and dialogues, including select items from Missa Concertata La Lombardesca.

Frankly, much early music sounds alike to me, my being no expert in the field, and the fact that many Italian Baroque composers probably influenced Pekiel doesn't make it any easier. Besides, to me most current pop music, rap, and jazz all sounds alike, so what do I know? The important point is that The Sixteen perform all of this music from Pekiel with an elegant touch. The soloists meticulously execute their parts; the divisions of the choir blend in a honey-like fusion; and the instrumentalists provide an unobtrusive yet often virtuosic accompaniment.

With smooth, natural sound, it's an appealing album of unusual repertoire.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor
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