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Hyperion Records

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Station 12 'Dying' from The Golgotha of Jasna Góra at the Beginning of the Third Millennium (Czestochowa) by Jerzy Duda-Gracz (1941-2004)
By kind permission of Jasna Góra Monastery, Czestochowa, Poland
Track(s) taken from CDA67724
Recording details: March 2008
West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: March 2009
Total duration: 55 minutes 4 seconds

'A composer with a profound understanding of the technical and emotional range of the human voice … the shining writing for the countertenor Evangelist (performed by the outstanding Iestyn Davies) … and the Resurrectional blaze of the final 'Christus vincit'. This string of moments, by turns bright and oppressively 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' (Gramophone)

'Łukaszewski's reputation is growing rapidly, and rightly so … here, Christ's victory over death enables Łukaszewski to end on a triumphant coda that carries a primal power recalling Orff's Carmina Burana and Penderecki's St Luke Passion … 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' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This eminently accessible oratorio, whose impact is unquestionable … the piece is delivered with passionate, almost frightening intensity. From Polyphony under Stephen Layton's inspired direction one expects no less: luminously clear textures … his three vocal soloists are admirable too: the countertenor Iestyn Davies as the Evangelist in particular finding in his contributions a beautiful combination of sweetness and compassion' (International Record Review)

'From the arresting opening eruption, reminiscent of the famous 'O fortuna' from Carl Orff's Carmina burana, it is instantly clear that this is a passionate performance of a powerful work. Through its ensuing myriad contrasts, the peerless skill and unwavering dedication of Polyphony, the Britten Sinfonia, soloists and conductor Stephen Layton result in a compelling performance of Paweł Łukaszewski's moving oratorio … it is impossible to envisage a better performance. Strongly recommended' (

Via Crucis
author of text
largely from the Gospels and Isaiah

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Lukaszewski’s Way of the Cross is one Station longer than Liszt’s or Dupré’s. This reflects the Catholic Church’s more recent embracing of a final, 15th Station for the empty tomb and resurrection—an addition that brings redemptive ‘closure’ to the Paschal story on Easter Sunday. Lukaszewski employs the 15 Stations as a rigorous structural framework, so that the 55-minute span of the work evolves, he says, ‘in the manner of a mega-rondo’.

Repetition, from one Station to the next, is central to the work’s culminatory, ritual power. Every Station, except the last, features a highly calculated sequence of recurring motifs and refrains. They define themselves most of all by textural separation—solo/choral, upper/lower voices, a cappella/instrumental—but also by tempo relationships and contrasts of mood.

Each Station is announced by solemn, three-part writing for male voices: austere, parallel fourths (one perfect, one augmented) making for a consciously archaic effect—aggressive even, as if the singers are Pilate’s strutting centurions. This stern pronouncement melts into a supplicatory Adoramus te for sopranos and altos, each time accompanied by a four-part trombone chorus of low-voiced parallel fifths.

In successive Stations, narrative passages for the three solo voices and the narrator, speaking in Latin, follow. Lukaszewski ‘colour-codes’ each solo part. The Evangelist part, written for a particularly high-lying countertenor voice, is always doubled by a bass clarinet. The tenor part, that of Pilatus, is tracked by the contrabassoon at the octave or double octave. And the bass/Christus part is always differentiated texturally with a doubling by the alto flute. With simple but effective symbolism, at the moment in the 12th Station when Christus bows his head (‘Consummatum est’—‘It is finished’), the alto flute carries on playing alone. Musically, the soul has left the body.

The final recurring component of each Station features a lamentation for upper voices and low strings, Qui passus est pro nobis—a more reflective, but equally austere counterpart to the opening refrain for male voices. There then follows a bridge passage between each Station for the woodwind quartet and sustained, droning fifths in the horns and lower strings. This recurring passage, based on a Polish folk tune and with medieval-like hocketing effects in the wind writing, is comparable to the Promenade sections in Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Here is a neutral space for the listener, free of text and voices, where Lukaszewski leads us on to the next Station. These ‘amorphic inter-Station passages’, the composer writes, enact ‘the reset function’. What is different from the other repeated materials in Via Crucis is the way Lukaszewski gradually winds down the tempo of each successive re-appearance. The first time it appears, we hear an alert, springing dance, marked Allegro, crotchet=120. With its last appearance, at the end of the 13th Station, we hear a mournful dirge, crotchet=40–46.

Lukaszewski adjusts tempo and dynamics with one final, crucial element of each Station. In the first two or three, it is not apparent. By the fourth, firm, tutti chords begin to register with the listener, because their number relates to the number of the Station. They precede each of the male-voice Station announcements, ever more dominating. They are block-like blows of the hammer, and Lukaszewski cranks up the tempo from Grave, crotchet=40/50 at the start to Moderato, crotchet=90 at Station 12. For the final two Stations, though, we are back to the Grave tempo, and the iterations of this chord, in Christ’s death, have lost their loud insistence.

Lukaszewski guides us through the story further, musically, in Stations 3, 7 and 9. These are the three Stations where Jesus falls, so the hammer blow chords are followed uniquely by snarling, snapped, brass-heavy diminished fifths—one of them in Station 3, two in 7, three in 9. These are musical signposts for subsequent differences in each Station; here the messianic prophecy from Isaiah Chapter 53 offers a presentiment of the suffering of the Via Crucis. These passages are uniquely for a cappella voices, and extend the overall range of the choral writing with solo invocations amidst a wash of sustained, eight-part clusters.

A similar, clustered wash of sound is achieved in the longest Station, the 12th, when woodwinds and brass swap their instruments for ocarinas. Eerie and disembodied, and markedly different from the more firmly pitched ocarina chorales in the second movement of Ligeti’s Violin Concerto, Lukaszewski prepares the way with haunting eloquence for Christ’s death.

The 14th Station omits choir or soloists, and features instead the most extended passage for spoken-voice narrator. The solemn cor anglais solo that weaves through these words is a Polish Christmas lullaby, Jezus malusienki—a quotation that symbolizes, Lukaszewski writes, ‘the birth to new life after the death of the body’.

Arvo Pärt, in his setting of the St John Passion, takes the listener on an ever so tightly controlled, unwavering journey of tonal and textural experience. After 65 minutes of calculated sparseness around A minor, the effect of his final chorus, blazing into D major, can be monumentally liberating. Lukaszewski does something similar with his 15th Station for the Resurrection, though he is hugely more expansive with his material both at that point, and with everything that has preceded it.

With almost cinematic vividness, the choir treads at first warily, then ever-more surely towards the light of Christ’s resurrection. The horns, at last liberated from their almost constant drones of paired fifths, lead the way to each new chord with a Bruckner-like sense of harmonic impetus. And then Lukaszewski gives us the cataclysmic release of C major, the chord of resurrection in Polish liturgy on Easter Sunday. This is led by the organ—tutta la forza, and until this point silent in the tension and sadness of the Passion story. Choir and organ lead the way from here to a reprise of the opening—this time with Christ in victory and majesty, and with a final, ecstatic chord bursting with the ambiguity of major and minor.

from notes by Meurig Bowen © 2009

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