Agnieszka Franków-Żelazny graduated from the University of Wrocław in 2000 with a degree in biology. That year, she founded the Kameralny Chór Akademii Medycznej (Medici Cantantes Choir at the Medical University of Wrocław). In 2004, she received a diploma from the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław, where she studied Music Education and was awarded a diploma in 2005 from the Vocal Department. During this time, she was honoured with the first prize in the National Contest for Choir Conductors. In 2006, she completed the Postgraduate Voice Production and Training Programme at the Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz. Since June 2006, Franków-Żelazny has been the artistic director of the National Forum of Music Choir. In 2008, she was awarded a special prize for conductors from the 39th Legnica Cantat National Choir Contest. Franków-Żelazny became the head of Polish National Youth Choir, which she also founded, in 2013. She completed course work at the Academy of Culture Leaders at the Economic University of Kraków, in 2014 and was distinguished with the Gloria Artis Bronze Medal for Merit to Culture. The following January, she was named the programme director of the Choral Academy of the National Forum of Music. In 2016, Franków-Żelazny was a music curator for the year that Wrocław served as the European Capital of Culture. The album DE PROFUNDIS – Polish Psalms of the 20th and 21st Century with the NMF Choir under her direction was awarded the Fryderyk prize for the best choral, oratorio and orchestra music, 2017. She currently works as an Associate Professor at the Academy of Music in Wrocław.
Arvo Pärt was born in Paide, Estonia, in 1953. He studied at the Tallinn Conservatory and later worked as a sound engineer at Estonia Radio while composing music for film and theatre. His early concert music experimented with neo-classicism and avant-garde styles, which in 1962 begot censure from the Soviet Composers Union. Six years later, his work Credo was banned after its premiere for professing the Christian faith. During the 1970s, Pärt developed a new style influenced by early polyphony, which he called “tintinnabuli,” entailing one voice moving in a stepwise manner around a given pitch and another sounding a bell-like triad. His setting of the Passion, Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Secundum Joannem or The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John, known more simply as Passio, is considered to be the unparalleled expression of this style.
The piece was composed in 1982, shortly after Pärt and his family were allowed out of Soviet-controlled Estonia. The account of Saint John, the only gospel author present at the Crucifixion, is associated with the sequence of events from Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem through the Crucifixion. The story of the crucifixion of Christ from chapters 18 and 19 of Johns transcription has been sung on Good Friday since the earliest times and Passion respects the traditional practice of chanting the biblical narrative. Pärt assigns the roles of Pilate and Jesus to solo voices and that of the crowd and ancillary characters to the choir in a traditional manner. Though he uniquely composed the role of the Evangelist for a double quartet of voices and instruments employing violin, oboe, cello, and bassoon. In this interpretation, there is a short devotional introduction that sets up the narrative, Pärt then begins with the arrest of Jesus, inserts the Farewell Discourse after the Last Supper, and ends the narrative immediately after Jesus’s death with a closing prayer, “You who have suffered for us, have mercy on us. Amen.”
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator