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This is the fourth disc of
Poland-related music to be directed by Eamonn Dougan, the associate
conductor of this ensemble, but only the second to arrive here and the first
one I have seen. Marcin Mielczewski (d. 1651) is not a familiar name among
17th-century Polish composers. To place him between the most well-known
Baroque Polish composers, Zieleński was a generation older and Gorczycki two
generations younger; Bartłomiej Pękiel was his exact contemporary. Poland
(like Russia a little later) was strongly influenced by Italian musicians
who were brought in to compose, conduct, and sing. King Sigismund III (d.
1632) and his two sons, Ladislaus IV and Charles Ferdinand the bishop of
Wrocław and Płock, were patrons of Italian music, and the bishop appointed
Mielczewski to his final post as his chapel master in 1644 or 1645. The
notes by a Polish scholar who collaborates with Dougan on this series
develop further aspects of his career to a considerable extent, but the
details are largely speculative, and his early life and career are
undocumented. None of his music survives in autograph. Two Masses are
recorded here, including the two movements of Missa Cervisiana that survive.
Most of his works are called church concertos, six of them heard here; a
small number of instrumental pieces, including the two canzone heard here,
also survive. The complete Mass on this disc was recorded by a Polish vocal
ensemble (Fanfare 24:2), while the concluding hymn was recorded by Manfred
The ensemble now calls itself simply The Sixteen after its original complement of that number of voices, but this program uses 19 singers and 11 players. Dougan has found a sympathetic ear for the Polish Baroque. The performances are light and airy, and the sound is caressing. Lovers of Polish Baroque will be delighted that Dougan has taken up their cause.