★★★☆☆

This is the third release in The Sixteen’s admirable exploration of Polish choral works and offers a sample of works by Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki (c. 1665-1734) who lived almost all of his life in Kraków and was regarded as the outstanding composer of the Polish High Baroque. Little is known of his career before he was appointed Kapellmeister at Wawel Cathedral and all but 39 pieces from his output have been lost in the various conflagrations and upheavals that have plagued his nation.  

The programme opens with an arresting bugle call that promises grandeur and pomp to come but then proceeds through a selection of a cappella and vocal-instrumental pieces of increasingly soporific dullness. Gorczycki’s style was deeply conservative and even the concertante works seem 40 years out of date with few genuinely memorable ideas. 

The Mass in stile antico is workman-like with a few quirks in the writing that might be discerned by the attentive choral-scholar but will pass the average listener by. There are some sober beauties to be found in the Conductus Funebris and the concluding Litania de Providentia Divina so maybe this is a programme to dip into rather than wade through the whole. 

I cannot fault the performances; the works are sung with the austere purity one expects from this choir with impeccable intonation and enunciation of text while the instrumental ensemble is secure and enlivens the textures with varied continuo. Documentation is exemplary while sound quality is natural and clear. So despite the advocacy of the performers and special pleading of the booklet notes I would only recommend this release to those who are collecting the series and academic specialists. Interesting – but not very.

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