Lukaszewski: Via Crucis (CD Review - BBC Music Magazine, 2009)

Performance *****

Recording *****

Thanks principally to Stephen Layton's advocacy, Pawel Lukaszewski's reputation is growing rapidly, and rightly so. Last year Hyperion issued a very fine collection of his choral works by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge under Layton's direction. Via Crucis completed in 2000, demonstrates that Lukaszewski can marshal even more complex forces with equal skill, writing for orchestra as powerfully as he does for voices.

As the title indicates, the work follows the stations of the cross: 15 of them, since the Catholic Church recently accepted the empty tomb and Christ's resurrection, rather than His entombment, as the legitimated final stage. Here, Christ's victory over death enables Lukaszewski to end on a triumphant coda that carries a primal power recalling Orff's Carmina Burana and Penderecki's St Luke Passion.

Lukaszewski describes the work as a 'mega-rondo'. Each station is introduced by orchestral 'strokes' (one for the first, two for the second etc) and begins with the chorus announcing the event associated with the station followed by an adoramus. 

A spoken link leads to dialogue from the soloists, a choral lamentation and an orchestral interlude moving us on to the next station. All the performers evince an emotional commitment to the content as well as to accurate technical realisation of the music. The purity of sound achieved by Polyphony's sopranos and countertenor Iestyn Davies is notable, so too is Roger Allam's sonorous narration.

Barry Witherden

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