Hymn to St. Adalbert for mixed choir and orchestra (dir. Wojciech Czepiel)
de St. Adalberto, composed for the millennium of the City of Gdańsk
and first performed in Oliwa Cathedral in autumn 1997, was Penderecki’s second
work dedicated to that city, after Lacrimosa for the unveiling of the
Monument to the Victims of December 1970 (and before Gdańsk Fanfare for
the European Solidarity Centre).
Another point of reference for the Hymn to St Adalbert, orSt. Wojciech in Polish, is the composer’s Hymn to St Daniil, composed the same year, which was also for a city’s anniversary, Moscow’s 850 years, and was similarly scored. Dorota Szwarcman, in her report from the performances of both works, observed that the Moscow hymn “is based on chants and types of sound associated with Eastern Orthodox liturgical music” and “the piece written for Gdańsk had a similar aura”. The compositions, written between The Seven Gates of Jerusalem and Credo, have one more feature in common: the use of a minor sixth, an interval of which Penderecki was particularly fond in that period.
The text of the Hymn to St. Adalbert, in praise of the patron of that city, is presented in a simple, syllabic manner, in agreement with the rules of Latin prosody and intonation. The form of the occasional piece “strategically” leads to the crowning point, the culmination. The instrumental parts support and complement the voices. The specific sound aura of the piece is brought out by the arrangement of two horns and two trumpets im Saal (in the sacred space), but the decisive factor is the nearly modal, minor-key harmony. In Oliwa Cathedral this “Hollywood-Orff” style, in the best sense of that term, received a manifestation well suited to the place and circumstances.