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New Polish Music Panorama VI: Master and His Pupils Vol. 2
Marian BORKOWSKI (b. 1934)

Vox per uno strumento ad ottone (1977) [6:02]*
Dram for orchestra (1966) [4:57]**
Piotr SPOZ (b. 1977)

Sonata for Violin and Piano (1997) [9:55]***
Grażyna PACIOREC-DRAUS (b. 1967)

Muzyka Napotkana for oboe and accordion (1990) [4:12] #
Aldona NAWROCKA (b. 1977)

Molecules for piano (2000) [10:55] ##

Epizod for Orchestra (2001) [7:56] ###
Mi-Jin LEE (b. 1973)

Fala for clarinet and piano (2001) [6:29] †
Slawomir ZAMUSZKO (b. 1973)

Three Organ Preludes (2001) [7:30] ††
Ryszard OSADA (b. 1972)

E-motion for 2 accordions and stereo track (2001) [8:59] †††
Boris ALVARADO (b. 1962)

Pazzanti for piano (2003) [5:41] ‡
Dariusz LAPIŃSKI (b. 1977)

Les Jeux for clarinet, bassoon, cello, and piano (1998) [5:06] ‡‡
Zdzislaw Piernic (tuba)*, Patrycja Piekutowska (violin)***, Piotr Spoz (piano)***, Tytus Wojnowicz (oboe)#, Zbigniew Kożlik (accordion)#, Szabolcs Esztenyi (piano)##, Orchestra of the Jozef Elsner Music School in Warsaw ###, Michal Nizynski (conductor) ###, Michal Szubarga (clarinet) †, Irena Wiselka-Cieslar (organ) ††, Radislaw Toporowski (accordion) ††† , Grzegorz Toporowski (accordion) †††, Maria Paz Santibanez (piano) ‡, Piotr Filip (clarinet) ‡, Katarzyna Piotrowska (bassoon) ‡, Mariusz Domanski (cello) ‡ , Robert Morawski (piano) ‡, Symphony Orchestra of the Fryderyk Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw**, Piotr Borkowski (conductor)**
Recording venues not indicated.


Acte Préalable is a label I’ve been following fairly closely since I became aware of its releases in the past year. It has been active in releasing not only neglected pieces of Poland’s past composers and showcasing Polish performers, but also has worked to throw the spotlight on contemporary composers, as evidenced by the six discs of the continuing series "New Polish Music Panorama". Two discs, subtitled "Master and His Pupils," as one would expect, focus on the musical legacy of Poland’s schools of composition. Both discs are devoted to the work and pupils of Marian Borkowski, who teaches at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw.

The opening piece by Borkowski, Vox for optional (?) brass instrument - the notation is such, evidently because the choice of instrument is left up to the performer. Here, the piece is performed by its dedicatee Zdzislaw Piernik on tuba. It’s certainly progressive in terms of tonality and lack of classical structure. As far as an introduction to Borkowski is concerned, this is rather arduous, with random - and often quite loud - noises coming from the solo instrument, ranging from difficult and rapid intonations to intestinal rumblings and back. This piece won’t be just anyone’s cup of Darjeeling, and it wasn’t mine. How would the works by Borkowski’s nine students fare?

Some of them fare quite well, actually. Take for instance, the following violin sonata of Piotr Spoz, which begins with an ominous ostinato that reminds one of Rodion Shchedrin’s piano pieces. Turbulent and dramatic, the piece evaporates into the upper registers of both instruments before the second movement, marked Indifferente, begins. This closing movement has an air of indecision about it, and, as the piece builds, certainly does not feel indifferent. An intense and interesting piece, performed with the composer on piano.

Paciorek-Draus’s Muzyka napotkana makes the unusual pairing of oboe and accordion, in which the oboe takes the majority of the foreground, but over the course of the piece, trades off staccato notes in an intricately timed sort of language — a discourse that seem to mimic communication patterns in birds. The two instruments are an intriguing combination, and the score directs the performers to pat their instruments for percussive effects.

Following the held last note of the oboe is Molecules by Aldona Nawrocka for prepared piano. This is a work that centres on an obsessively repeating note, treated to be muffled, that serves as a pulse for the first part of the piece. The title of the work appears to be merely suggestive. While quite modern in sound, it has a relatively tight structure; certain sections repeat, separated by fff staccatissimo tone clusters, some lyrical passages that disquiet, and a fairly hefty bonk on the instrument with the hand or foot with the sustain pedal depressed. An exciting and enjoyable work.

All but two of the pieces here are scored for chamber ensembles of various combinations or solo instruments. Kowalski-Banasewicz’s Epizod for orchestra has its thematic material, which essentially amounts to a frantically-repeated note, and a run up to a new note which is also repeated. The orchestration and feel of the piece reminds this reviewer of a not-so-heavily syncopated Bernstein, or, at the beginning, the "Maccaber Danse" movement of Lowell Liebermann’s first piano concerto. A quieter middle section gathers tension, accelerating slightly, before bursting into major mode. The overall feel is that of West Side Story combined with an occasional dash of the music of Carl Stalling.

In a completely different musical direction is Osada’s E-motion for two accordions and stereo track, which begins alarmingly with a stereophonically distorted accordion chord. The effect is startling. The live instruments are mirrored, echoed and smeared by the electronic track. The piece is occasionally a bit claustrophobic, but quite an interesting listen. At times the electronics make the piece verge a bit too closely into outerspace/videogame territory, however.

Another standout is Lapinski’s Les Jeux of 1998 for clarinet, bassoon, cello and piano, which begins as a perpetual motion piece, separated by short bursts of narrative from various members of the ensemble. A nicely pensive slow section features the piano effectively, the other instruments falling silent save for the cello.

The mood is shattered but good with the opening explosive outburst from the orchestra of Borkowski’s closing piece, Dram, of 1966. According to the composer, quoted in the liner notes, the piano subjects a 12-tone row to a tone-cluster-style treatment. The piece is tense, anxious and violent, with fortissimo punches from the orchestra as the violins skew their woozy glissandi.

For listeners who are avid pursuers of new works and unsung living artists, look no further. The fact that Acte Préalable has continued to release new volumes to this series shows a considerable level of commitment. The liner notes, in occasionally idiosyncratic English translation and Polish, give brief descriptions of the works and, more helpfully, brief bios of all the composers here represented, along with listings of their completed works. Well worth getting for those interested in new music.

David Blomenberg

Acte Préalable catalogue



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