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Lukaszewski - Choral Works - Gramophone

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This is a lovely disc of enchanting choral music.  Possibly the Trinity College Choir does not always provide the warmth of tone such unashamedly expressive music demands, but that is more than compensated for by the sheer intensity of Stephen Layton’s direction.  We read in the booklet-notes that he is Łukaszewski “most enthusiastic British proponent”; which perhaps makes him sound like an obsessive advocate of some deeply insignificant proposal from the European Parliament, such as replacing trusty British flush toilets with the nasty European ones, but only the hardest of musical hearts will remain unmelted by such committed interpretations.

It was for Layton that Paweł Łukaszewski produced his setting of the Nunc dimittis.  In its beautifully measured phrases, immaculately tailored textures and ingenious use of light and shade to invoke light shining out of darkness, it is a gem which receives here a beautifully poised account.  Effusive reference in the booklet to Łukaszewski’s masterful handling of the concluding fade-out – “a hackneyed effect in the hands of lesser composers” – did get the juices of my critical scepticism running for a bit until I head it, along with all other potentially hackneyed choral effects (polytonal clusters in Memento mei, Domine, frequently reiterated dynamic contrasts in Beatus vir, Sanctus Martinus, continually repeated melodic and rhythmic motifs in O Sapientia), and realised that here is a composer who really is a true master of the art of a cappella writing and for whom other people’s experiments and gimmicks are an essential tool in conveying a profound emotional message.

Once or twice – notably in a saccharine setting of the Ave Maria (although the purity of Rebecca Lancelot’s voice manages to divert any cloying character) and an over-clichéd Crucem tuam adoramus – the musical quality is compromised by emotional effect, but all in all this is a lovely disc.  In saying that is has been difficult to draw this CD out of my player, so frequently have I returned to it, I can offer it no higher praise.

Marc Rochester

Lukaszewski - Choral Works
Hyperion Records CDA67639