- Stabat Mater, for soprano, alto, baritone, chorus & orchestra, Op. 53, M60
- Veni Creator, for soprano, chorus, orchestra & organ, Op. 57, M67
- Litany to the Virgin Mary, fragments (2) for soprano, female chorus & orchestra, Op. 59, M72
- Demeter, cantata for alto, women's chorus & orchestra, Op. 37bis, M39
- Penthesilea, for soprano & orchestra, Op. 18, M18
The pieces included on Naxos' 2008 release of choral works by Karol Szymanowski exactly matches those of its 1996 recording featuring Karol Stryja leading the Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, but the remarkable quality of this new version fully justifies the duplication of the repertoire. Antoni Wit, whose stature has become more recognized in the West since the turn of the century, conducts the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir in luxuriant readings of some of the composer's most appealing choral and vocal compositions. The "Stabat Mater" is a paradoxical work (in the best way), monumental but intimate, austere in tone but lush in its musical language. Szymanowski's success in integrating these disparate elements gives it a power and uniqueness that demand attention; it certainly deserves to be recognized as one of the masterworks of twentieth century choral music. In this impassioned performance, the orchestra, chorus, and soloists soprano Iwona Hossa, mezzo-soprano Ewa Marciniec, and baritone Jaroslàw Brek bring a searing dramatic intensity to the piece. One of its most telling moments is the intimate closing in which the three solo voices are highlighted. The remaining works on the CD share the compelling musical language the composer employs in the "Stabat Mater": a saturated post-Romanticism tinged with impressionism, Eastern European folk traditions, and a sense of Middle Eastern mystery and exoticism. "Veni, Creator" is a grand and triumphant cry of exultation interspersed with radiant solos. The two movements of "Litany to the Virgin Mary" are a serenely ecstatic hymn of praise. "Demeter" and "Penthesilea" are secular cantatas, the first for alto and women's chorus and orchestra and the second for soprano and orchestra, and they are even more frankly sensual in their appeal: rhapsodic and passionate retellings of ancient myths. The performances throughout match those of the "Stabat Mater" in their heat and atmospheric coloring. The sound is flawless, warm, and pristine, with just the right amount of resonance.