Norwegian Chamber Orchestra

Norwegian Chamber Orchestra
Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (Photo by Mona Ødegaard)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Zoltán Kodály: Missa Brevis for soloists, chorus & organ – Jakub Pankowiak, Warsaw Philharmonic Choir, Bartosz Michałowski (HD 1080p)

Under the baton of internationally acclaimed conductor Bartosz Michałowski, the soloists Kinga Jaskowska (soprano), Justyna Jedynak-Obłoza (soprano), Ewelina Siedlecka-Kosińska (soprano), Jadwiga Bartnik (alto), Adam Sławiński (tenor) and Krzysztof Chalimoniuk (baritone), with the organist Jakub Pankowiak and the Grammy winner Warsaw Philharmonic Choir, interpret the Zoltán Kodály's Missa Brevis for soloists, chorus & organ. Recorded at Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall on February 19, 2017.

The Russian Army was besieging Nazi-occupied Budapest when Kodály put the finishing touches on this powerful work, which he had begun two years earlier in 1942 as a solo organ mass. Kodály, hidden in the cellar of a Budapest convent, then reworked it for chorus and organ, soon thereafter producing a third version, for chorus and orchestra, which was premiered in early 1945. Under the circumstances, it's surprising that Kodály imbued the work with so few of his characteristic Hungarian touches, but he clearly intended this Missa Brevis to be an act of spiritual supplication rather than a gesture of nationalism. The organ sonorities remain evident in the work's opening bars, not just because an organ is incorporated into the texture, but because the block-like brass and woodwind writing evokes organ registration. The substantial orchestral "Introitus" leads without pause to the subdued choral entry in the "Kyrie", the choir alternating phrases with high, suppliant utterances by the trio of soprano soloists.

A tenor solo announces the more celebratory "Gloria", in which the chorus soon gains dominance, although the bass, contralto, and ultimately tenor appropriate the morose, central "Qui tollis peccata mundi" section for themselves. The tenor also heralds the generally bright and uplifting opening of the "Credo", which is nevertheless mainly a choral movement. The music turns slow and dour in the "Et incarnatus est" section, alluding to the crucifixion, but becomes jubilant for the "Et resurrexit", recounting the resurrection. The "Sanctus" begins with very slow, pastoral woodwind and organ writing, followed by the ethereal entry of the women's chorus. The movement flows in waves of crescendos and decrescendos, and looks ahead to the rapt choral writing Kodály's countryman Miklós Rózsa would soon be producing for Hollywood Biblical epics. The ensuing "Benedictus" remains on a more consistently restrained level, except for an intense climax halfway through. A dark, earnest series of "Qui tollis peccata mundi" solos by the tenor and contralto, echoed by the chorus, begins the "Agnus Dei". This plea for mercy and peace plateaus on a powerful climax, then subsides, eventually leading to some eerie work from the soprano trio and a heavy, grim "Dona nobis pacem" at the end. That's not the true end, though; Kodály wraps things up with an assertive "Ite Missa est", concluding with hope and grandeur.

Source: James Reel (

Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967)

♪ Missa Brevis for soloists, chorus & organ (1942-1944)

i. Introitus [01:15]*
ii. Kyrie [04:07]
iii. Gloria [07:05]
iv. Credo [11:00]
v. Sanctus [17:25]
vi. Benedictus [19:46]
vii. Agnus Dei [23:22]
viii. Ite. Missa est [29:28]
Credits [32:12]

Kinga Jaskowska, soprano
Justyna Jedynak-Obłoza, soprano
Ewelina Siedlecka-Kosińska, soprano
Jadwiga Bartnik, alto
Adam Sławiński, tenor
Krzysztof Chalimoniuk, baritone

Warsaw Philharmonic Choir

Jakub Pankowiak, organ

Conductor: Bartosz Michałowski

Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, February 19, 2017

(HD 1080p)

* Start time of each track

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