Misteria Paschalia 2018

Monday, March 26, 2018 - Monday, April 2, 2018

  • Monday, March 26, 2018 - Monday, April 2, 2018

Thirteen concerts spread over eight days, Polish accents, three world premieres and seven projects created especially for the festival… This celebration of early music has no equal!

Last year’s refreshed formula proved to be a great success, so this year’s Misteria Paschalia Festival once again focuses on music from a single cultural source: this time we will immerse ourselves in the extraordinary, dazzling world of Renaissance and Baroque sounds from the British Isles.
The Virgin Queen, the victory over the Spanish Armada, Shakespearean theatre, great overseas conquests and the establishment of Anglicanism: the Elizabethan era seems to hold no secrets thanks to its recent portrayals in film and television. Is that really true, though? “The music from Britain in the 16th-18th centuries provides one of the richest treasuries of western music. Just like the music from Poland during the same period, it is often ignored in standard narratives of music history but this has only served to deprive audiences of some of the most expressive and intense music that Europe has ever produced,” says John Butt, conductor, musicologist specialising in early performance techniques, music director of the Dunedin Consort ensemble in Edinburgh and director-in-residence of the 15th Misteria Paschalia Festival (26 March – 2 April). “The Holy Week is an ideal time to celebrate this achievement, since the contradictory emotions of the period are so well captured by this fascinating repertory,” he adds.

English music from Saxony
Almost contradicting these words, during the opening of the main festival stream Vanitas John Butt and Dunedin Consort present a work whose popularity extends far beyond the usual circles of classical music fans, composed by an artist born in Halle near Leipzig in Saxony who later chose England as his home. Messiah, the most famous oratorio by George Frideric Handel, telling the story of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection and the fulfilment of His Messianic mission, resounds at the Church of St Catherine on 26 March. Butt and his ensemble present one of the earliest London versions of the masterpiece prepared especially for the festival – the conductor is promising several surprises!
The second meeting with the artists from Edinburgh and Handel’s oratorios falls on Easter Sunday (1 April) at ICE Kraków, when we will hear Samson – one of the composer’s finest dramatic works. Dunedin Consort will be supported by the Polish Radio Choir in crucial choral parts.
During the festival finale (2 April), Dunedin Consort and John Butt are joined at the ICE Kraków Auditorium by one of the most highly acclaimed British tenors working today: Ian Bostridge. Perhaps best known for his interpretations of the Romantic Lieder, the artist showcases his extraordinary talent in hymns by Henry Purcell and in Handel’s Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day.

Golden age
Any presentation of early English music would be incomplete without Handel, but we are stepping even further back in time to the days of the Tudors – the golden age of English music. The refined tastes of royalty, gentry and wealthy landowners drove popular interest in music and dance. Henry VIII was rumoured to own ten trombones, 14 trumpets, five bagpipes, 76 recorders and 78 flutes! His daughter Elizabeth I was a virtuoso of the virginal and a patron of composers of polyphonies, including the Catholics Thomas Tallis and her personal favourite William Byrd. So what did 16th-century England sound like?
Music of the Elizabethan court comes to Kraków courtesy of the London choir Stile Antico. We will hear compositions by Tallis and Byrd, motets by Alfonso Ferrabosco the elder – Italian madrigalist who enjoyed particular favour of the Queen – as well as works from manuscripts bestowed to Elizabeth by King Eric XIV of Sweden as he (unsuccessfully) asked for her hand in marriage. The concert Treasures of the Tudor and the Wettin Courts (27 March, Church of Corpus Christi) includes Polish accents: compositions by Bartłomiej Pękiel and Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki, masters of music at Wawel Cathedral, and Johann Knöfel, musician at the courts of the Silesian Piasts.\
The violinist and conductor Jorge Jiménez explores the traditions of the Anglican Church. By studying works by early English masters, such as William Byrd, Richard Dering, Christopher Tye, Robert White and William Brade, the artist has recreated the sound and shape of the evensong – an Anglican version of the Catholic vespers. “I decided to develop my idea by not only creating a faithful representation of the service, but also by reconstructing the atmosphere and sounds which resounded in churches before, during and after evensong,” Jiménez says. The world premiere of the programme Evensong: British Vespers (28 March, Church of St Catherine) is performed by the Capella Cracoviensis choir, the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble and Jiménez’s Tercia Realidad ensemble.

Memento mori
Just as Baroque literature and painting, music of the period had a strong focus on death and passing. We will find many funereal motifs in works by British composers, since mournful, stunning musical sequences are an important element of British heritage. The tradition is reached for by Martyna Pastuszka, artistic director of the {oh!} Orkiestra Historyczna: during the concert Funeral Lament (29 March, ICE Kraków) the musicians are joined by the British vocal ensemble Marian Consort presenting a cross-section of two hundred years of British music from John Dowland, Henry Purcell and Handel.
Funeral music is also the focus of the Easter Saturday concert at ICE Kraków by Le Poème Harmonique under the baton of Vincente Dumestre, making a welcome return to Misteria Paschalia Festival on 31 March. Their dramatised programme Son of England is centred around Henry Purcell – the celebrated 17th-century composer sometimes known as the British Orpheus. We will hear his Funeral Sentences – a contemplation on the fleetingness of human life written for the funeral of Queen Mary II – and Come, come along for a dance and a song – an ode on the death of Henry Purcell by the somewhat-forgotten composer Jeremiah Clarke. Soloists including Emmanuelle de Negri, Zachary Wilder and Victor Sicard are joined by the choir Les Cris de Paris.
Themes of suffering and death, closely intertwining throughout the Holy Week, are also taken up by artists of the Orchestra and Choir of the Age of Enlightenment and Mark Padmore (in the difficult double role as conductor and solo tenor), presenting the St Matthew Passion on Good Friday (30 March) at ICE Kraków. Bach’s masterpiece contemplating the passion of Christ, one of the finest British ensembles specialising in early music and the acclaimed tenor taking on the role of the Evangelist – what could be more moving?

Melancholy lute
Due to its slight geographic, political, religious and cultural separation from the mainland, Elizabethan England developed its own distinctive style of the arts. This included compositions for viol ensembles and songs accompanied by lute. The Misteria Paschalia Festival couldn’t possibly miss a wide selection of works by John Dowland; the musician was one of the most famous lutenists and composers of the Elizabethan period, although he was notably absent from the royal court until after the queen’s death.
On 31 March, the Chapel of St Kinga in the Wieliczka Salt Mine resounds with his cycle Lachrimae, or Seven Tears of exalted, passionate pavanes and his rather livelier, more joyful galliards. They are performed by the lutenist Elizabeth Kenny and the consort of viols Phantasm; the ensemble’s artistic director Laurence Dreyfus describes it as the most sensuously tuneful hour of music ever written.
Lute music and melancholy, ever-present in Dowland’s work, are also the leading motifs of Lachrimae: the festival stream of late-evening concerts held at the Church of Corpus Christi. We will hear virtuosos of the lute: Paul O’Dette presents a solo recital on 28 March, while Thomas Dunford is joined by Lea Desandre singing songs of pain, longing and love on 26 March. Raphael Rogiński performs unusual interpretations of lute compositions adapted for guitar; the premiere of the programme Post-Elizabethan Melancholy features choreography from the butoh dancer Ryuzo Fukuhara (27 March). The final concert of the Lachrimae strand, held on 29 March, features yet another world premiere and a Polish touch: Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennett leads the Cracow Singers in Lamentations by Wacław of Szamotuły, reconstructed recently by the lutenist and scholar of Mediaeval and Renaissance music Marc Lewon. The concert is repeated the following day at the collegiate church in the composer’s home town of Szamotuły.
The Misteria Paschalia Festival brings together opposites in perfect harmony: the contemplation of the Holy Week and the joy of Easter, great individuals and the fellowship of the universal language of music, and quiet, intimate contemplation of early masterpieces and sharing their enchanted beauty with others. And we will share it with the whole world: once again selected concerts are recorded by the Mezzo TV channel, with some being transmitted live to 55 million viewers in 60 countries all over the globe. Join us for this incredible space for music and emotion! (Barbara Skowrońska)

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