The Octava Ensemble specialises in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century music, though it performs pieces from different eras and styles. The octet has worked with Aphex Twin and Krzysztof Penderecki, and it also took part in the Unsound festival, accompanying the Swedish band Wildbirds & Peacedrums.
The Octava Ensemble chamber choir was founded in 2004 by students and graduates of the Academy of Music in Kraków.
The Octava Ensemble chamber choir was founded in 2004 by students and graduates of the Academy of Music in Kraków. Its artistic director is Zygmunt Magiera, laureate of the 12th National Competition for Choral Conductors in Poznań (2008), as well as runner-up of the 4th International Choral Conducting Tournament ‘Towards Polyphony’ in Wrocław (2008). Magiera is also the artistic director of the choir of the Kraków Opera. He has worked as a conductor with Capella Cracoviensis, the Wrocław Opera, the Polish Radio Choir and the Kraków Chamber Choir.
During the 39th edition of the ‘Legnica Cantat’ National Choir Tournament in 2008, Octava Ensemble (known as Octava vocal octet at the time) won the Grand Prix, while Zygmunt Magiera received the award for best conductor of the competition. The octet also won the Grand Prix at the Małopolska Choir Competition (2006) and the Choir Festival ‘Cantio Lodziensis’ in Łódź (2007).
The Kraków-based ensemble has released two albums of liturgical and religious music. The debut CD includes pieces by former bandmasters of the Wawel Cathedral Choir – Bartłomiej Pękiel (Missa Pulcherrima and the motet Sub Tuum Praesidium) and Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki (five Marian motets). In 2010, the album was nominated for the Fryderyk Award granted by members of the Polish Phonographic Academy.
The recording of Missa Octava by the Late Renaissance German composer Hans Leo Hassler constitutes the second album of the choir. It gained positive reviews in the national and international press, including the influential British Gramophone magazine.
One of Octava’s exceptional activities was the project Ad Radices Musicae whose aim was to restoration of liturgical music for church services. Compositions by Leopolita, Mielczewski, Pękiel, Palestrina, Lilius and Charpentier sounded in their proper liturgical context.
Octava Ensemble has taken part in a number of important Polish festivals and concerts in Europe, Turkey and China. The main artistic domain of the octet is sixteenth- and seventeenth-century music, but its repertoire also includes works by Felix Mendelssohn, Anton Bruckner, Karol Szymanowski, Zoltán Kodály and Henryk Mikołaj Górecki. In addition, Octava Ensemble premiered compositions by Polish and foreign artists, such as Aleksander Tansman, Łukasz Urbaniak, Krzesimir Dębski and Carl Nielsen. During the European Culture Congress in Wrocław in 2011, the octet performed works by Krzysztof Penderecki and Aphex Twin presented for the first time. During the Misteria Paschalia Festival the choir also worked with Adrian Utley from Portishead and Will Gregory from Goldfrapp on the music for the film The Passion of Joan of Arc by Carl Theodor Dreyer. The musicians of Octava Ensemble participated in the experimental music festival Unsound, during which they played with the Swedish band Wildbirds & Peacedrums and the Schola Cantorum Reykjavík Choir from Iceland.
The current members of the octet are: Agnieszka Drabent (soprano), Agnieszka Magiera (soprano), Małgorzata Langer-Król (mezzo-soprano), Zuzanna Kowalówka (alt), Zygmunt Magiera (tenor), Mateusz Prendota (tenor), Bartłomiej Pollak (baritone) and Marin Wróbel (bass, baritone).
Author: Agnieszka Grzybowska, transl. Bozhana Nikolova, April 2015
- Bartłomiej Pękiel: Missa Pulcherrima / Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki: Motets (DUX, 2009)
- Hans Leo Hassler: Missa Octava (DUX, 2011)