Tuesday 7 November 2017

A window on Polish 17th century music: Marcin Mielczewski from the Sixteen

Marcin Mielczewski
Marcin Mielczewski choral works; The Sixteen, Eamonn Dougan; Coro
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Oct 27 2017 Star rating: 3.5
Another 17th century Polish composer released from the archives

You have probably never heard of Marcin Mielczewski. He is the latest in a series of 17th century Polish composers being brought to light by Eamonn Dougan and The Sixteen. Their latest disc on the Coro label features a programme of Marcin Mielczewski's choral music,including movements from his Missa Cerviensiana and Missa O gloriosa domina.

This is the fifth volume in the Sixteen's Polish series, and the unfolding programmes have allowed us to appreciate both native Polish composers and how they were influenced by the Italian composers working at the Polish court. King Sigismund III was, in particular, very fond of large-scale poly-choral music and Marcin Mielczewski almost certainly took part in musical performances under Asprillio Pacelli and Giovanni Francesco Anerio, as well as studying with Franciszek Lilius, a composer of Italian descent.

There seems to be a great deal we still do not know about Marcin Mielczewski, though he worked at the Royal court and would ultimately become chapel master to Bishop Charles Ferdinand Vasa. No Mielczewski seem to have survived either, so much is surmise and we can just listen to the music.

He write both in the modern concertato style as well as the older polyphonic style. His concertato works are clearly in the line established by Monteverdi, whilst his polyphonic works include such large-scale pieces as the three-choir Iubilate Deo. We also get some of his instrumental works on the disc.

The works on the disc all receive attractive and admirably engaging performances from Eamonn Dougan and the Sixteen, with their instrumental ensemble. Marcin Mielczewski is clearly a composer who deserves being released from the archives, and I hope that this disc encourages other choirs to investigate the composer. That said, I have to confess that though I find his music pleasing it never quite engaged me, certainly not a whole disc of it. One or two movements really grabbed my attention, but overall the sense was of a talented composer writing music of notable distinction, rather than an undiscovered genius.

Marcin Mielczewski (c1600-1651) - Benedictio et claritas
Marcin Mielczewski - Missa Cerviensiana
Marcin Mielczewski  - Canzona terza a 3
Marcin Mielczewski - Deus in nomine tuo
Marcin Mielczewski - Missa O gloriosa domina
Marcin Mielczewski - Gaude Dei genitrix
Marcin Mielczewski - Iubilate Deo
Marcin Mielczewski - Canzona prima a 2
Marcin Mielczewski - Veni Domine
Marcin Mielczewski - Quem terra, pontus, aethera
The Sixteen
Eamonn Dougan (conductor)
Recorded at St Augustine's Church, Kilburn, 21-24 November 2016
CORO COR16153 1CD [60.43]
Available from Amazon.

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