If there’s one thing I have to thank MusicWeb International for,
apart from the lovely people who write for it and run it, who
are a sheer delight to work with, it’s the fact that I’ve been
sent several CDs of music by Krzysztof Meyer to review. In Meyer
I have found a truly worthwhile contemporary composer. Here’s
a figure who can orchestrate brilliantly, can create tunes and
long-breathed themes, knows what to do with them and how to work
out his argument to a satisfactory conclusion. He’s not afraid
to show his emotions and, best of all, Meyer is a composer who
can easily communicate despite using a fairly modern language.
To put his work in perspective, he’s not as way-out as either
the Dane Pelle Gudmundsen–Holmgreen or the Norwegian Olav Anton
Thommessen. He is way ahead in matters of immediate communication
– more so than Allan Pettersson or even his compatriot Krzysztof
Penderecki. His is a unique voice: highly passionate, very dramatic
and richly conceived.
Here is a Symphony which is a real Symphony, one which, as Mahler
said, “must embrace everything”. It certainly does that for this
Symphony for the Passing of Time
is a big work, playing
for nearly 45 minutes, in three movements. Starting with a dark,
slow, introduction - gongs, low strings, a theme for the clarinet
- the music grows until trumpet calls seem to herald the fact
that this music is approaching catastrophe. This is a marvellously
built climax, and it is suddenly released in an allegro
of great fire and urgency. Thrilling stuff. Imagine Shostakovich
or Honegger with plenty of attitude. This is very disturbing music,
and it’s not an easy listen but what a world it inhabits! It’s
compelling and the never-ending forward thrust is irresistible.
A brief moment of respite and the movement ends in unresolved
defiance. The middle movement starts with an ostinato on pizzicato
basses with a winding theme for flute. The angst returns, there’s
a climax and we’re suddenly back in no man’s land with dissonant
string harmonies. Thereafter, the music veers between large and
small gestures. The finale is resigned, with some rich chordal
writing for the strings. Here is real tragedy, filled with heart-felt
emotion for the lost. The Symphony ends quietly, fading into nothingness.
This is the point at which you must stop the disk for, despite
17 seconds of pure silence, you may need a longer rest before
continuing with the music.
The Double Concerto
is much easier to listen to, although
it’s recognizably the same voice as the Symphony.
lighter in feel and, obviously, has to make allowances for the
virtuosity of the soloists. The first movement starts with a long
recitative for the cello alone, which is followed by a duet for
the soloists. Then the orchestra brings in the main body of the
movement – fast and angular; this is music for discussion. It’s
incisive and dynamic, brilliantly orchestrated and superbly laid
out for the soloists. The slow movement is in two parts. The first
is pure melody, rich and long breathed song from the soloists
over a shimmering orchestral accompaniment. Then the orchestra
sustains chords whilst the soloists indulge in arabesque colouring.
It is very restrained, subdued and intensely beautiful. The finale
is all fun and frolics.
The performances of both works are excellent. It’s full of life
and drama - the players and conductors obviously understanding,
and enjoying, every minute of the music. The sound is bright and
clear with a nice balance between soloists and orchestra in the
This is exciting and wholly satisfying music in an idiom which
is easy to assimilate. Whilst being in a modern language it is
packed with tunes. Please give Meyer a chance because on the strength
of what I have heard of his music he is well worth the effort.