Jasna Góra - musical centre of the 18th Republic of Poland
For more than three hundred years music accompanying prayers resounded in the church and Virgin Mary shrine at Jasna Góra thanks to the music ensemble created by the Pauline Fathers in the 16th century. Composed of monks and lay musicians, the ensemble used to be one of the most important music groups in the Republic of Poland and at the same time an influential centre of artistic education and compositional activity. The extraordinary development of the ensemble, marked by an increase in the number of its members and composers involved in its activity, reached its peak in the 18th century, witnessing also the coronation of the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary (in 1717). At that time two composers whose works are presented in this recording joined the ensemble: Father Eryk Brikner and Marcin Józef Żebrowski.
Father Eryk Brikner (Brykner), OSPPE - organ player and composer from Jasna Góra
Born in 1705 in Drzymałowice near Wrocław, Jerzy Brikner initially studied philosophy in Krumlov, Moravia, where he is likely to have begun his musical education. After finishing his studies he entered the Pauline order and adopted the name of Eryk; from 1724 he stayed at Jasna Góra, where he could continue to pursue his musical education. It was there that he spent the majority of his life, although historical sources recorded his sojourns in Le¶na Podlaska (1730-37), Warsaw (1745), Brzozów near Opatów (1753-55) and Pauliny Mochów near Głogówek (1759-1760). He died at the Jasna Góra monastery in 1760. As a monk Brikner enjoyed great respect and as a musician he was described as a brilliant organ player and composer. Brikner was one of a few organ players in the ensemble, because the great range of responsibilities necessitated the involvement of at least two musicians specialising in this instrument at the same time. The organ was the most important instrument accompanying the liturgy, both playing solo and accompanying the singing or performances of the ensemble. Organ players belonged to the best educated musicians of the ensemble and were very often, like Brikner, composers. The Pauline ensemble in Brikner's times could boast a very diversified and topical repertoire obviously adapted to the local needs including, however, works by Polish, Silesian, Czech, German, Italian and other composers; subsequent conductors of the ensemble ensured continuous expansion of the repertoire, especially Father Paweł Weisgärber, a former member of Paweł Esterhazy's ensemble in Hungary, who went to Silesia and Prague several times in search of new compositions. This artistic environment must have been extremely inspiring for young musicians joining the ensemble. Suffice it to say that Brikner competed with several composers within the ensemble, the most eminent including Wincenty Maxylewicz, Józef Kobierkowicz and Marcin Józef Żebrowski.
Brikner's compositions, although relatively modest in size still deserve our attention due to good compositional technique and the application of broad melodic invention. His compositions preserved until today include two arrangements for the texts making up a compline service, a hymn for the feast of the Apostles and a collection of compositions performed during vespers.
3. Completorium (I) by Brikner
The compline service in the evening before retiring for the night, as compared to masses and vespers, was less often performed at Jasna Góra with the accompaniment of a music ensemble; therefore, we could find fewer works of this type in its repertoire. So, it is worth stressing that as many as two arrangements of Completorium written by Brikner (one of them survived incomplete), have been stored in manuscripts in the archives of Jasna Góra. One of them, Completorium for soprano and bass (and alto and tenor ad libitum), two violins and organ consists of seven parts composed for the texts selected from the entire service of compline. These are: Four psalms (4, 30, 90, 133), a hymn Te lucis ante terminum, the responsorium breve In manus tuas and the canticle of Simeon Nunc dimittis. Arranging those texts Brikner followed the path of two other Polish composers of the late baroque: Stanisław Sylwester Szarzyński (died about 1700) and Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki, the Wawel Kapellmeister (died about 1734), the Wawel Kapellmeister. The piece by the Cracovian composer includes exactly the same texts as those arranged by Brikner, while Sarzyński omitted the responsorium breve. The noticeable similarity of compositions by Brikner and Gorczycki, demonstrated by the approach to arranging individual sections of Completorium and by selection of tonality, does not seem to be accidental; all the more so because the Jasna Góra ensemble was in possession of manuscript copies of Gorczycki's works.
Brikner's Completorium constitutes a cohesive set of compositions, which is indicated not only by the performing line-up - identical in all parts - but also by repetition of motifs drawn from the first psalm in the final hymn and a well thought out tonal scheme linking individual sections with a harmonic bridge: C, G, D, A, B, F, C). The combination of sharp keys used in psalm arrangements with flat keys in the hymn and the responsorium highlights the division of the entire composition into two parts according to the type of arranged texts. While in the psalms and the hymn the entire ensemble was performing, for the hymn Brikner reduced it to a 4-voiced vocal with organ accompaniment and distinguished the responsorium by entrusting the solo parts exclusively to the soprano voice. Both specific sound solutions served to express the meaning of the verbal text. The strophic hymn, attracting attention by fusing the timbre of vocal voices and by beautiful, full harmony, evokes the Renaissance polyphony whose sound perfectly expresses a request for a quiet night. In responsorium, a personal and trustful apostrophe of Man to God, the direct contact of the faithful with the Creator is expressed by emphasizing one solo voice alternated with the choir. In the psalms and the canticle all features of the musical language typical of Brikner came to the fore. Each of those pieces was put in a multi-sectioned form arising from the verse structure. The contrast between subsequent sections of the composition is not very strong and consists mainly of a change in line-up. The composer contrasted the soprano solo with the bass parts; vocal duets with solo or 4-voiced parts; the accompaniment of two violins with the independent basso continuo part. Avoiding word repetitions, overlapping the end and the beginning of neighbouring verses and frequently entrusting two voices to perform simultaneously different fragments of the text contributed to consistency of the composition. However, as a consequence, the clarity of some words was sometimes considerably reduced, which happened quite often in the 18th century compositions.
Father Eryk Brikner's Completorium, like his other works, was composed without using virtuosity. The vocal parts are within registers comfortable for the voices. A melodic pattern deprived of longer melismas is generally led with a fluent repetitive movement of seconds or chord movement, and sometimes adopts recitative form, especially in the fragments with full line-up. Longer melismatic phrases, contributing to achieve concertato texture rarely applied by Brikner were reserved for the final sections with "Amen". The sound of the pieces is soft, euphonic, deprived of sharp dissonances, with homorhythm dominating in polyphonic structures. The violin's melodic pattern partly mimics the vocal voices, when the first or second violin doubles the soprano voice entwining it with its own sound. At other times the violin parts display purely instrumental features, among which broken chords, dynamic scale progressions and tremolo are the most characteristic.
Marcin Józef Żebrowski (died after 1780) - composer, violin player and vocalist from Jasna Góra
Żebrowski can be easily introduced as the most outstanding composer among those working for the Jasna Góra ensemble in the 18th century. He was engaged as a lay musician from 1748 to 1965 and most likely also in 1780. He enjoyed the reputation of a brilliant violin player and a vocalist endowed with a beautiful bass voice. The presence of Żebrowski's compositions in the repertoire of other Polish music ensembles (in Szalowa and Gidle) and the fact of printing his works by the publishing house of J.J. Hummel in Amsterdam confirm his outstanding talent. The archives at Jasna Góra keep as many as thirty of his compositions, once in the repertoire of the then ensemble and performed still in the 19th century. There are various pieces including religious arias, duets, vocal and instrumental concerti, arrangements of the Magnificat, masses, vespers as well as sonatas and instrumental adagios. At the beginning of the 19th century the collection of musical artefacts at Jasna Góra included five compositions of Żebrowski's masses, four of which have survived until today: Missa ex D, Missa in B, Missa Pastoralis ex D and Missa Pastoritia ex D. The former two of them belong to feast masses designated to be performed on ordinary Sundays in the liturgical year, while the latter two were composed for Christmas time.
Missa ex D by M.J. Żebrowski
The composition by Żebrowski presented in this recording was preserved in the form of a unique manuscript drawn up in 1782 by one of the Pauline Fathers, Zachariasz Gelita. The mass was composed for two vocal voices: soprano and bass accompanied by two violins and organ. Moreover, the composer took into consideration the possibility of increasing the number of instruments "at one's own discretion" (ad libitum) by two clarino trumpets, used in the present performance. This mass's performing line-up is very similar to the line-up of other arrangements of ordinarium missae by Żebrowski and at the same time typical of the religious music composed in the middle of the 18th century. Optional participation of trumpets and the relatively more modest size of the composition are likely to arise from its designation for ordinary, less ceremonial Sundays.
The analysis of musical language of Missa ex D and the manuscript features imply that it is the oldest mass composed by Żebrowski between 1748 and 1765. The composer was gradually withdrawing from the baroque style and introducing elements of the classical style, however, in Missa ex D we can still find many late baroque features. One of them is, according to the aesthetic assumption of this period, prioritizing the verbal text and subordinating the musical aspect of the composition to its form and content. Only in this mass did Żebrowski not introduce polytextual musical sections which impeded the understanding of the words. However, he widely used concertato technique consisting of change in the performing line-up and contrasting subsequent segments of the composition. He also used polyphony, so typical of the compositions of his predecessors, both more sophisticated, imitative and the simplified polyphony consisting in parallel movement of voices. The section Qui tollis in Gloria features the most elaborate three voiced imitation between two vocal voices and the first violin, where the imitation serves to emphasize the form of the mass text. Polyphonic texture is alternated in Żebrowski's composition with the homophonic texture typical of classical music. Classical elements are manifested also in the melodic line constructed on the basis of spaced chords and in the tendency to create symmetrical formal structures (e.g. ABA' in Et resurrexit).
Missa ex D consists of five main parts, within which the composer made further divisions. These smaller sections making up the cycle of the mass constitute independent musical entities. The composer combined them by contrast (agogical, metric, tonal and colouristic and textural) and connection with the verbal text. Fast tempi are usually featured by uplifting or glorious sections (e.g. Gloria, Cum Sancto Spiritu, Et resurrexit), while slow tempi are associated with a solemn, majestic or sad text (e.g. beginnings of Kyrie, Sanctus and Crucifixus). The participation of trumpets in individual parts of the mass is also connected with the nature of the spoken word (triumphant, joyful and glorious) and underlines the structure of the composition.
Solo parts accompanied by one or two string instruments and organ play important roles in the composition. They take the form of an aria, where a vocal voice dialogues with an instrument and rhythms refer to Polish dances (e.g. a polonaise in Domine Deus or a cracovienne in Quoniam tu solus Sanctus). In the entire piece the vocal voices are maintained in their medium registers, although they sometimes display extreme, more typical registers. The important quality of this composition is its varied melody: virtuosic from time to time (especially in solo parts), sometimes simple, melodious and typical of polyphonic sections, every now and again displaying spaced chords and at other times recitative (particularly in the Credo part).
Purely instrumental sections are functioning as initial sinphonias, dividing ritornellos and widened cadences add variety to the text of ordinarium missae. The composer assigned particularly developed parts to violins, displaying clearly the technical potential of this instrument. Contrastingly, the clarini voices are characterised by repetitive and chord motifs. The instruments, however, above all strengthen the sound of the vocal performers.
Żebrowski skilfully applied the solutions of the musical rhetoric convention, which allowed him to emphasize dramatic qualities of the text of the mass: in Crucifixus, exceptionally in G minor, he applied hardly audible chromatic movements and dissonant intervals. Similarly, rhetoric permeates Agnus Dei, where the words of pleading for mercy were expressed in a characteristic contrapuntal form with a descending melodic line (pathopoeia).
- o. Eryk Brikner OSPPE (1705 – 1760) – Completorium
- Marcin Józef Żebrowski (c. 1705 – 1780) – Missa ex D
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