This collection of short choral pieces by Johannes Brahms is an unusual one in present times, partly because many of the choral parts are quite demanding. For a choral club in the 19th century, however, it wouldn't have been so novel, and there are great beauties on offer here. After the fetching Ave Maria, Op. 12, the rest of the program is dense, metaphysical, and, with the partial exception of the Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53, concerned with death. There are two funeral songs, and two more about fate, and this is not the warm, humanistic Brahms of the German Requiem, Op. 45. The performances are profound and dignified, and the overall effect uncanny. The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir under choirmaster Henryk Wojnarowski has a gorgeous rich tone that is undiminished by the long lines of the music, and the Alto Rhapsody achieves real grandeur in the hands of contralto Ewa Wolak. But the real credit goes to the Warsaw Philharmonic and conductor Antoni Wit, who keep a consistent level of tension and momentum in difficult, dark material like the somber Nänie, Op. 82 (Funeral Song), a rarely performed late Brahms masterwork.
The two works on this recording are separated by 35 years, during which time Penderecki made a decisive break with the post-war European avant-garde. In the Magnificat, chilling instrumental clusters, spectral sounds and impassioned rhetoric unite with tonality and counterpoint to deliver a work of monumental emotional power. Written to mark the 65th anniversary of the end of the Jewish ghetto in Łódź, Kadisz is among the most distinctive of Penderecki’s later choral works in the stark contrasts between drama and sombre reflection of its individual sections.
Prominent cinematographer Christopher Doyle continues to hone his talents as a director with this thriller set in Eastern Europe and inspired by the as-yet-unsolved murder of a Polish politician in 2001. A young prostitute is spending the evening with a prominent Polish official when he's suddenly assassinated in Warsaw. In the aftermath of the hit, the triggerman takes the prostitute to an apartment and subjects her to a complex personality replacement program designed to wipe out any memories she may have retained about the evening's events.
Dan Cruickshank returns to his childhood home of Warsaw for the first time in almost 60 years. In a personal and moving film, he recalls his boyhood memories to explore the memories of the city and the memories of its people. No city in Europe suffered so much destruction in the Second World War, no city rose up so heroically from the ashes. The Nazis had razed Warsaw to the ground, but after the war the people fought hard to bring their city back from the dead in one of the greatest reconstruction jobs in history. As a boy, Cruickshank lived in the rebuilt old town and it inspired his love of architecture and made him the man he is today.
Stan Getz was invited to perform a concert with a local rhythm section in Warsaw, Poland, in 1960; he was sufficiently impressed with the trio to join them for a brief studio session afterwards. While this five-song set isn't flawless, as Getz has some problems with repeated reed squeaking in the rendition of "Cherokee," the all-standards program is otherwise very enjoyable, with excellent sound. Getz is in total control with the lush take of "Darn That Dream," as he makes a delayed entrance following pianist Andrzej Trzaskowski, who proves himself to be a thoughtful accompanist and soloist. Bassist Roman Dylag and drummer Andrzej Dabrowski also get high marks. This compilation is rounded out with two tracks from a 1974 concert in Warsaw by a working edition of the Stan Getz Quartet, with pianist Albert Dailey, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Billy Hart. The tenor saxophonist again gets a little sloppy with atypical reed squeaks in both tracks, which include an extended, exciting workout of Chick Corea's "La Fiesta" and an old favorite, Jobim's "Desafinado." Getz fans will definitely want to acquire this obscure Polish CD.