1- Magnificat (Offertoria) [6:33]
2- Levavi oculos meos (Communiones) [2:48]
3 - Factus est repente (Offertoria) [2:28]
4 - Justus ut palma florebit (Offertoria) [2:35]
5 - In splendoribus sanctorum (Communiones) [2:44]
6 - Salve festa dies (Offertoria) [4:01]
7 - Video caelos (Communiones) [2:45]
8 - Ortus de Polonia (Offertoria) [2:35]
9 - Ego sum pastor bonus (Communiones) [2:26]
10 - In monte Oliveti (Communiones) [3:25]
11 - Principes persecuti sunt (Communiones) [2:42]
12 - Vox in Rama (Communiones) [2:40]
13 - Viderunt omnes (Offertoria) [2:50]
14 - Ave Maria (Communiones) [3:05]
15 - Surrexit Dominus (Communiones) [1:45]
16 - Contere Domine (Communiones) [2:00]
17 - Laetantur caeli (Offertoria) [2:45]
Kira Borecko-Dal • sopran
Barbara Szczycińska • sopran
Marcin Bornus-Szczyciński • alt
Ryszard Minkiewicz • tenor
Włodzimierz Sołtysik • tenor
Cezary Szyfman • tenor
Stanisław Szczyciński • bas
Ireneusz Ławreszuk • bas
Ensemble vocal et instrumental
Kaja Post • sopran
Ülle Heinsalu • sopran
Eike Kirikal • sopran
Karin Kurm • sopran
Kadri Poll-Hunt • alt
Marju Riisikamp • alt, virginal
Margo Kõlar • tenor
Tõnis Kaumann • tenor
Taivo Niitvägi • tenor, flety proste
Taniel Kirikal • bas
Joel Vähermagi • bas
Karl Nieler • bas, dulcian
Guido Kriik • puzon
Valter Jürgenson • puzon
Tõnis Kuurme • dulcian
Svea Juckum-Bentz • skrzypce
Reet Sukk • flety proste
Tonu Josaar • wiolonczela
Communiones Totius Anni - Edition 1611
Organist, Kapellmeister and composer at the
court of Wojciech Baranowski, Primate of Poland, he was of bourgeois
origin, and his life straddled the 16th and 17th centuries. This is all
that we know about Mikołaj Zieleński, one of the greatest talents of
early Polish music. This might seem incredible, but with archives
having fallen prey to fire, time and enemy armies, nothing more has
come down to us. Time, did, however, spare the collection Offertoria
et Communiones totius anni
which was printed in the year 1611 by the Venetian workshop of
Vincenti, this constituting the quasi-totality of Zieleński's output.
Zieleński owed the publication of his works by this well-known Venetian
printer (who also printed the works of Monteverdi, amongst others) to
the generosity of Primate Baranowski, a fact underlined in the
panegyric dedication that the composer addressed to his benefactor. 'I
began this work at your instigation; whilst in your service I finished
it and it is thanks to your generosity and prodigality that it was able
to be published.'
In addition to being universally considered a man of great erudition and dignity, Wojciech Baranowski, archbishop of Gniezno and Primate of the Crown, was a music-lover. 'During his stay in Italy, he learnt to sing prettily without going flat, something rare amongst clerics', according to G. P. Mucante. The Primate's see was located in the beautiful chateau of Łowicz (now destroyed) which had been built in the Renaissance style. His court included a chapel, a vocal and instrumental ensemble as was customary at the time. From what we can learn from Zieleński's dedication, the Primate attached great importance to reestablishing 'order and splendour' in religious functions and, in the desire to dispose of changeable parts of the Mass (propria) conceived in a modern fashion, he commanded his master organist to compose them.
As coincidence would have it, it was this same year, 1611, which provides us with our sole factual information regarding Zieleński. For twice during this year, he went before the tribunal, and court records inform us that the Primate – visibly as a sign of gratitude towards his artist – gave him the town hall of the village of Bochen, near Łowicz, and the Rudnik mill. In the documents, Zieleński is indicated as the archbishop's organist and magister capellae.
Poland in the 17th century claims that Zieleński studied in Italy (Hekatontas, by Szymon Starowolski, p.162), but no concrete facts support this supposition. We must limit ourselves to pointing out that the composer did have a broad knowledge of stylistic tendencies in Italian music of his time. Nonetheless, for that, he would not necessarily have been obliged to leave the country – he could have learnt it in Poland, for example, in the royal chapel in which participated, for a year, the great madrigal composer Luca Marenzio and Asprillo Pacelli, Annibale Stabile, Vincenzo Giglio, Vincenzo Bertolmi and others. Poland was at that time – with its position on the north face of the Alps – one of the countries which assimilated with the greatest eagerness the new currents in Italian art – not simply in music, but also in painting, sculpture and architecture, and even literature. Zieleński was conscious of the innovative nature of his work which evolved with the most modern trends in Italian music. He wrote in the dedication: 'Offertories and Communions composed for the first time by a Pole in the new style.' Let us analyze the contents of the collection and the elements which were considered innovative in Polish music.
First of all, we must mention that the title itself is not precise, since, between the Offertories and Communions, Zieleński included the Magnificat hymn, psalms intended for vespers, as well as fantasies of a purely instrumental nature. The first part – the Offertories – contains 56 pieces for 7 or 8 voices, and a 12-part Magnificat. The second half, the Communions, is far more diversified in that it is made up of various works composed for up to 6 voices. Either the Offertoires or the Magnificat are, without any doubt whatsoever, the product of Giovanni Gabrieli (1557–1612), of whose Sacrae Symphoniae would have served as an example. With the very title of his collection, Zieleński suggests the 'Italian connection' by introducing the term 'sacrae symphoniae'. The Venetian style straddled the two centuries during which the common heritage of all European music in which composers of every differing aesthetic orientation sought their inspiration. In Poland, this style was accepted only as of the 17th century; thus, Zieleński can be considered a forerunner.
The Offertories for 7 or 8 voices make use of two choirs, whereas the Magnificat utilizes three. This part of the work illustrates the conception according to which the basic unity in the musical structure becomes the choir and not, as it was acquired in Renaissance polyphony, one voice. Therefore, of fundamental importance is the cooperation between two (or three) choirs: their dialogue, their contrasts, their convergence... Zieleński, like Gabrieli in fact, considers each choir like a specific musical entity by creating vertical chords in an identical metre for all voices. The cooperation between choirs is varied: by beginning with a simple alternation between the two groups which repeat the same musical phrase, as far as dialogue, a rapid exchange of short motifs ending up with their superimposition. Of particular importance is the chromatic element, inscribed in some sense by the author in his oeuvre. It is quite rare that Zieleński uses two choir of which the voices are the same pitch (s-a-t-b, for example, in Laetentur caeli): in general, the first choir sings in a high, clear voice (two sopranos, no bass), whilst the second includes of a dark bass voice – but no soprano. The instrumental participation is quite important: each choir rests on its own organ part (this is not a basso continuo, but a 4-part score). Furthermore, the composer foresaw the possibility of doubling the voices with instruments in accordance with the Venetian tradition. Zieleński preferred the instruments of this tradition (used by Gabrieli or even Monteverdi): violins, bassoons and comets with which he was able to obtain clear, 'uncontaminated', contrasted sounds. This music is, in relation to Renaissance conceptions, completely new and original, and impresses with its very sonic volume. The composer has enlarged the sound space by using very low registers (low C) or very high. He has also had recourse to stereophonic effects resulting from the disposition of the choirs within the church. On the other hand, he has clearly limited the melodic element: here, the exquisite melismas typical of the period have disappeared. In their place we find simple melodies, harmonically oriented with a vigourous, expressive rhythm. Alongside these structures appear sweet, smooth, rocking 3/2 rhythms; e.g., the Alleluia with its typically Venetian cantilena aspect. In the Offertories, Zieleński reveals himself to be an excellent dramatist who has mastered the form to perfection. He creates an energetic continuum of tensions and relaxations by knowingly directing the choirs until they culminate in a splendid finale in which all the participants unite in a magnificent tutti. The Magnificat for triple choir carries this vocal splendour to an absolute degree.
In certain Offertories, Zieleński abandons the double-choir convention to return to counterpoint. This technique, typical of the Renaissance, is made up of constant imitations and long, asymmetrical and melismatic melodic lines. The best example of this procedure is Justus ut palma florebit, one of the most beautiful offertories with an introduction consisting of a splendid 7-part motet in the style of the Late Renaissance which attains a summit as concerns the development of 'floridus' or 'free' counterpoint. Just as striking is the contrast with the second part of the work, Sicut cedrus, with its lively dialogue between choirs. This dual-style work fully demonstrates Zieleński's artistic mastery, revealing him as an heir of the finest polyphonic tradition.
We can substantiate this also in reading the second part of the Venetian edition: the Communions and, particularly, the works for 4, 5 or 6 voices which, in fact, are regular motets. The imitative counterpoint dominates here: it is based on the transposition of a single 'theme' for all the voices and sometimes culminates in the superposition of two (many) voices. The melodic nature is typical of the Renaissance: asymmetric, without metric divisions, linear, melismatic with long, broad arches. Here the artist introduces – depending on the liturgical function – certain poetico-musical ideas: certain words, particularly important for their expressive value or for their evocative capabilities, are accompanied by an extremely subtle and expressive music. If we might say that the Offertories are sketches, with strong, energetic strokes, the motets are, in contrast, delicately shaded. Of a particularly rhetorical nature are In Monte Oliveti (for 5 voices) and Vox in Rama (4 voices). The first motet is distinctive primarily for the beauty and intense nobility of its melodic line which flows sweetly when describing the slopes of the Mount of Olives, then becomes dramatic and declamatory at the moment when Jesus prays to his Father.
Vox in Rama constitutes what is surely the most innovative element in Zieleński's output. This particularly rhetorical work with its pathetic, emotional gestures uses a declamatory melodic phrase, a casual chromatic and 'delayed action' dissonances to give body to the dramatic Biblical incident (Rachel weeping for her sons). It would be difficult to find a similar and as innovative (we might be tempted to say 'avantgarde') work in Polish music of the time.
A new world opens up before us with the one-voice Communions accompanied by organ. They make themselves over according to the living tradition during the second half of the 16th century, adding improvised ornaments ('dimunitio') to the work which, in principle, should be polyphonic. These ornaments are executed by a single voice during whereas the others are replaced by the instrument. It is thus that Zieleński conceived his Communions: the composer chose a voice of a 4-voice polyphonic structure (realised by the organ) by adding exquisite ornaments. Then, he scrupulously noted his ideas. From this point of view, the Communions possess a highly important historical role, but even more so, these are works of great aesthetic value. Both subtle and sensual, these pieces possess a poetic sense which has no equivalent in early Polish music. The internal dramatism of the Communions is based on the shock between the static and somewhat depersonalised polyphony (represented by the organ) and the profoundly lyric, indeed ostensibly virtuoso, voice. It is the fruit of necessity – so typical of Italian art, especially in its Mannerist version, to dazzle, astound and astonish ('far maraviglia' to borrow the expression of cavaliere Marino). Zieleński, author of Video caelos or In splendoribus, proves himself to be authentically innovative, and not simply on a Polish scale.
(Translation by John Tyler Tuttle)