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April 1, 2011


The Bornus Consort

by soundlandscapes

A FEW WEEKS AGO, I was invited by some friends to a party at their home. Nothing unusual about that – except that I live in Paris and my friends live in Warsaw! The invitation intrigued me so I raided my cache of air miles and arrived in Warsaw on a very chilly Friday afternoon.

This turned out to be no ordinary party. It took place in a beautiful apartment in Warsaw with very friendly and interesting guests all of whom, except me, were Polish. But the real stars of the evening were the Polish early music ensemble, The Bornus Consort, who gave a wonderful singing performance which I was privileged to record. This really was a party with a difference!

Established in 1981 by Marcin Bornus-Szczycinski, The Bornus Consort specialise in singing early music from the Middle Ages to the Baroque. Their original aim was to try to reconstruct and record the music preserved in the manuscripts of the Rorantists of Wawel Cathedral in Crakow keeping as close as possible to the original way of performing these early works.

As well as singing early Polish music, the ensemble also sing Dutch polyphony, French chansons, Italian and English madrigals together with contemporary pieces. In recent years the ensemble has focused on various forms of Gregorian chant, including the Dominican liturgical tradition.

When I spoke to him after their performance, Marcin Bornus-Szczycinski’s passion for early music shone through. He told me that his special interest is in thirteenth-century music about which he speaks with great authority and enthusiasm.

The Bornus Consort recorded in a Warsaw apartment:

This was the final piece the Bornus Consort sang during the evening. It is the motet Nunc Scio Vere by Waclaw from Szamotuly (1524-1560). It is particularly interesting because the music comes from the Cracow organ score of 1590 which had the music and the title but no words. The words have been reconstructed by Professor Miroslaw Perz.

Sometimes in life we are privileged to enjoy “cameo” experiences. For me, this was certainly one of those experiences and the memories of this evening in Warsaw will live with me for ever.

I am most grateful to Marcin Bornus-Szczycinski and the Bornus Consort for their permission to publish this piece and to my friends for their very kind invitation and gracious hospitality.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Peter (the Other)
    Apr 7 2011

    What a nice recording… the room is just the right size-material… such an attentive audience (of party goers no less)… there is a northern wildness to the music and its performance, and so excellently performed. The music coming out of my iMac speakers (sorry, no headphones) was perfect for my room and mood.

    Yet, my taste is more for either the earlier stuff (like the Notre-Dame school) or post-romantic. I think it is the amount of cleverness that can happen with the improving techniques… there was kind of a 500 year obsession with “twiddly” bits because the abstraction of written music allowed for it. By the late romantics. impressionists and Stravinsky the tools were becoming invisible (until Schoenberg had to muck it all up). yet, it took people having the nerve to make music together without the paper and ink to bring back the human capability for natural complexity in four parts. Oops, sorry, I went off on your blog as an escape from what I am supposed to be writing… thanks for the nice inspiration

    • Apr 8 2011

      Thanks Peter,

      I’m pleased that you enjoyed this piece. Don’t forget to let me know when you come over to Paris.


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