Daylight Declines: Choral Music by Paweł Łukaszewski
Tenebrae, Nigel Short
Any release by Tenebrae and Nigel Short attracts my attention and as I am relatively unfamiliar with the compositions of Pawel Łukaszewski I approached this new release from Signum Classics with keen interest.
Pawel Łukaszewski (born 19.09.1968) is a contemporary Polish composer who has written some orchestral and chamber music but his reputation is based almost entirely on his sacred music. He is an ardent Roman Catholic and sets texts mostly in Latin. While it is difficult to categorise Łukaszewski’s compositional style, it has a timeless element and is, in his own words, in a “renewed tonality”. Among Polish composers, of the present generation, Pawel Łukaszewski has become one of the best known and has seen more than a hundred CDs of his work produced to date.
This CD contains his Cantate Domino, Shakespeare Sonnets, Responsoria Tenebrae, Lamentationes and Beati in addition to the title work, Daylight Declines. The largest work in the programme is Responsoria Tenebrae. The texts for this come from the service known as tenebrae (darkness), which is liturgically Matins and Lauds of the last three days of Holy Week sung by anticipation on the night before. In the full service the responsories separate psalms, and candles are progressively extinguished until the church is left in darkness. Łukaszewski has set five of the original eighteen responsories and these are sung here most expertly by Tenebrae who manage to make the most of the striking modulations and chromatic colouring in the piece.
The title piece Daylight Declines sets an English translation of a Polish prayer for help as night falls and probably makes the best introduction for those unfamiliar with the works of Pawel Łukaszewski. This work has a typically peaceful effect despite containing some highly adventurous harmonies that Tenebrae take in their stride.
Pawel Łukaszewski appears to have an instantly recognisable sound and that perhaps leads to my reservations regarding this release. Despite the fine efforts of Tenebrae the entire CD is rather even – I would have appreciated a bit more obvious joy and exuberance from the composer in his Cantate Domino, for example, and generally more expression in many of the works. To sum up I offer plaudits to Nigel Short and Tenebrae for their quality of singing and commitment but I reserve judgement on Pawel Łukaszewski. Best perhaps to select individual works for listening rather than to sit through the entire CD.