CBSO Panufnik review

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY HEARS A WORTHY SUCCESSOR TO BRITTEN'S WAR REQUIEM

FAITHFUL JOURNEY
CBSO AT SYMPHONY HALL *****

Roxanna Panufnik's Faithful Journey is a work worthy to be set alongside Britten's War Requiem, so seamless is its interweaving of settings from the Latin Mass with poetry in the vernacular, and so powerfully engaged is its expression.
This Mass for Poland celebrates (though that is hardly the word, so painful has been the struggle until eventual liberation from Soviet shackles) the centenary of the nationhood of that noble country, and is a co-commission from the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (who premiered the work a fortnight ago in Katowice) and the CBSO supported by the John Feeney Charitable Trust, this being its UK premiere, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
I wonder if it will ever receive performances as gripping as this, with a seriously-committed CBSO, a polyglot CBSO Chorus so expertly coached by Julian Wilkins, an amazingly involved soprano soloist in Mary Bevan, all under the coolly confident conducting of Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, making a much-awaited return after bringing a little son into the world.
The tinklings of a pair of harps are important contributors to the texture, as are those from a large percussion section. The poems, each representative of successive decades of Poland's troubled century, are well-chosen and the translations well-made, and the general orchestration never draws attention to itself, serving rather to underpin the message of this understatedly passionate tribute to the homeland Panufnik's father had to flee.
I took so many notes, but my final one seems to be the most telling, where at the very conclusion the soprano soloist ends on the leading-note, resolved quietly by a bell on the tonic of the home key.
Christopher Morley

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