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

Memorable and impressive moments - but no big sweep to these stations

Hyperion's earlier disc of Lukaszewski's music (A/08) left me feeling that the Polish composer's idiom was short-breathed, although highly effective at conjuring up specific atmospheric moments. This second disc, whose theme is the Stations of the Cross (15 rather than 14 in Lukaszewski's version), does not radically alter my opinion. He's clearly a composer deeply informed by the liturgical and musical traditions of Polish Roman Catholicism, and also one who has a profound understanding of the technical and emotional range of the human voice. Thus the almost point-by-point illustration of his Via Crucis, is no surprise, and the dexterity of the orchestration only serves to reinforce the fact. What I really miss is any sense of a big sweep, a movement from here to there (which ritual repetition does not obligatorily negate).

Thus I limit myself to enjoying (greatly) smaller-scale units within the work, such as the bewildered muttering of the soloists in "Quis credidit autitui nostro?" or the shining writing for the countertenor Evangelist (performed by the outstanding Iestyn Davies) in "Universa turba", or - and this is important - the Resurrectional blaze of the final "Christus vincit". This string of moments, by turns bright and opressively dark, dramatic and reflective, receives a performance of the very deepest conviction by Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia under Stephen Layton, and the recorded sound is wonderful.

Ivan Moody

See Recording Details