Kilar Missa Pro Pace
There is a tangible sense of occasion about this which makes it clear why so many people were ‘greatly stirred’ (to quote the director of the Festival Wratislavia Cantans) by the work’s première, recorded here. Of course, a greatly stirring live performance does not necessarily survive the transfer to CD and many things here don’t stand up to close scrutiny in the cold light of day. The tenors get carried away in an over-enthusiastic duet with the basses in the Creed’s ‘Deum de Deo’, while, led by the sopranos, the Lower Silesian Opera Choir lose their grip on tuning in the ‘Crucifixus’.
Nevertheless such flaws pale into insignificance when set beside the many moments of ravishing beauty. Zofia Kilanowicz is radiant in the sumptuous Sanctus, Charles Daniels contributes burning passion and utter conviction, while Jadwiga Rappé and Piotr Nowacki blend to perfection in their moving duet which saves an otherwise over-long and over-gloomy Kyrie. All four soloists also provide one of the most memorable moments, the Gloria’s ‘Qui tollis’.
With its swathes of static consonant harmony and simple, unaccompanied melodic lines, this might be by any one of a dozen imitators of the Górecki and Pärt school of devotional writing, were it not for Kilar’s incredible sense of musical effect honed by years of composing film scores. Orchestral involvement is kept to an absolute minimum, making its appearances – not least in its glowing accompaniment to the Sanctus – all the more effective, while the largely a cappella writing for voices, without actually using plainsong, creates a rich, timeless effect through its use of single lines and basic counterpoint. All this is gauged and handled with sensitivity by Marek Pijarowski making this a compelling performance of a truly lovely work.