Notes & Reviews:
Melodies for the Polish Psalter by Mikolaj Gomólka is a collection of 150 four-voice compositions intended as a musical setting for Jan Kochanowski's poetic translation of the Book of Psalms. It ranks among the most significant works of Polish culture. Seemingly simple in style, Gomólka's Melodies are a true compendium of various musical forms. The performing practice was a lot less rigid than we might think today. The musical score of each psalm was really a proposal, opening up the possibility for many different interpretations, i.e. for several voices accompanied by lute, organ or other instruments; for solo voice accompanied by lute, vihuela or other harmonic or melodic instruments. Melodies could also be accompanied by percussion instruments, since the presence of dance forms can be found in many of Gomólka's psalms. Those same dances could also be included in the interpretation of Melodies as ritornelli or preludes. Mikolaj Gomólka's work offers rich interpretive possibilities. Its version for lute (by lute we also mean the vihuela and the renaissance guitar) is perhaps the one that lets us approach the text most closely and the one that moves the affections most. (Fernando Reyes)
American Record Guide, September/October 2015
Jan Kochanowski and Mikolaj Gomolka were part of that tradition. Working under the patronage of Piotr Myszkowski, the bishop of Cracow, Kochanowski would apply a modern appreciation for the vernacular language to his Polish translations of the Psalms, published in 1579 as the Psalter of David. The following year Gomolka published his Melodies for the Polish Psalter (1580), which imitate the simple, homophonic style of Neapolitan popular songs and dance music. The results are delightful, realized here by Paulina Ceremuzynska, with an accompaniment of vihuela or guitar (Fernando Reyes) and improvised percussion (Carlos Castro). Texts and notes are in English. The tuneful, popular character of these psalms reminds me of Giovanni Felice Sances, who would bring his spirited style of Italian psalm writing to Vienna in the early 17th Century. One might compare Gomolka's Polish songs to Jan Walters's recording of Sances (ASV 193, Sept/Oct 2000).