Zbigniew Preisner: Requiem for My Friend

The soprano Sumi Jo is famed for her ability to sing very high notes in a pure, angelic way. Nowhere is this gift put to better use than in her landmark recording of the famous Lacrimosa from Preisner’s Requiem for My Friend.

The Polish composer wrote the piece, his first large-scale classical work, in 1996. Until that point, Preisner had been known either for his piano miniatures or for his considerable film music output.

The friend alluded to in the title is the film director Krzysztof Kieslowski, with whom Preisner had collaborated many times. Among the most famous of Kieslowski’s movies for which Preisner wrote the score were The Double Life of Veronique and the Three Colours trilogy. Although modern in sound, Requiem for My Friend is entirely traditional in its text, using the liturgy of the Catholic Mass for the dead. The focus during Part I is rather broad, but in Part II, Preisner looks very personally on the loss of Kieslowski, with the inclusion of Polish texts in tribute to the director.

Preisner’s choice of instrumentation is certainly quirky. There’s a saxophone, an organ and a couple of counter-tenors alongside the sixty-piece orchestra, but the effect is absolutely spine-tingling. It remains the composer’s most popular and most moving work, by a long shot.

Recommended Recording

Various soloists; Varsov Chamber Choir; Sinfonia Varsovia. Erato 3984 241462.