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Clarient Concertos
Karol KURPÍNSKI
(1785-1857) (arr. Jerzy Młodziejowski and Marcin Zieliński)
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra: Allegro (1823) [13:59]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Fantasia and Rondo, from Quintet for Clarinet, Two Violins, Viola and Cello in B flat, Op. 34 (1815) [12:07]
Marcin ZIELIŃSKI (b.1975)
Concertino for Clarinet solo and strings [10:18]
Tobias SCHWENKE (b.1974)
Concerto for Clarinet solo and fifteen strings (2000) [12:43]
Artur Pachlewski (clarinet)
Consonare per Varsavia and friends/Jan Stanienda (violin/conductor)
rec. Church of Blessed Virgin Mary, New Town, Warsaw, May and September 2002
DUX 0396 [49:09]



Artur Pachlewski is a highly accomplished young clarinettist who studied with, amongst others, Eduard Brunner; he has been pretty well garlanded with prizes and those he has worked with include the Kronos Quartet, Michael Chance, the BBC Singers; performances have been broadcast by the BBC and Polish Radio and Television. On this CD, issued in 2003, his qualities – which include precision of intonation, fluidity of sound and tonal range – are readily audible. Whether the choice of repertoire was entirely judicious is another question.
 
The programme begins with a single movement from a concerto by Karol Kurpiński. Kurpiński’s main reputation was as a composer of operas. His first opera – Pygmalion, now lost – was composed in his early twenties and he went on to write a further twenty three works for the stage, also becoming principal conductor of the Warsaw Opera. He was well schooled in the traditions of Viennese Classicism, but also responsive to newer developments. His clarinet concerto was completed when he was in Paris, travelling under the auspices of the Polish government in order to learn more of the state of music in other countries. He had the opportunity to work with Weber on this tour and Weber’s influence is detectable in this concerto. What we actually hear is the first movement of the concerto in an arrangement for string ensemble made, we are told, by Jerzy Młodziejowski and Marcin Zieliński – which puzzles me a little. The only Jerzy Młodziejowski that I know of was the composer and conductor who, born in 1909, died in 1975 – the very year in which Zieliński was born, making it a little hard to understand how they could have collaborated on an arrangement. Am I missing something here? The piece itself is pleasant, melodic and nicely shaped – essentially a classical sonata. But it isn’t especially remarkable and it is hard to see why the movement was thought so special that it should be separated from the larger work of which it is part and presented in this way. It would have been much more satisfying, I suspect, to have heard the full concerto.
 
The two movements from Weber’s Op. 34 quintet are a fitting complement to the piece by Kurpiński, written just a few years earlier.. Weber’s quintet is, of course, a very demanding piece technically, and Pachlewski certainly passes any such tests altogether successfully. I am not sure, though, that Pachlewski’s clarinet doesn’t dominate a little too much in what is more of an ensemble piece than it appears to be in this performance. Still, Pachlewski spins out the melodies very attractively in the slow fantasia and there’s a fair bit of dancing vitality in the rondo. Again, though, it is a shame that we have only part(s) of the work. It would surely have been better to have given us either the Kurpiński of the Weber complete?
 
With the last two works on the CD we do get complete works; we also move from the classical (in a broad sense) to the contemporary. Marcin Zieliński, born in Warsaw, studied both organ and composition at the Music Academy there and performs regularly as an organist. No date of composition is given for his Concertino, of which this is a world premiėre recording. A single movement piece, essentially neo-classical in manner, it makes pleasant if unremarkable listening, the most interesting passages involving a repeated clarinet melody against shifting ostinatos in the strings.
 
Tobias Schwenke – whose concerto also receives a world premiėre recording here – was born in Berlin and studied with, amongst others, Walter Zimmermann. Pianist as well as composer, Schwencke’s work is well-known on the European ‘new music’ circuit and this is an adventurous piece, exploiting unconventional instrumental techniques, not least in the way the strings are employed. A brief booklet note by Tomasz Jeż tells us that “the composer provides for several methods of performance”. It is unclear whether that simply means that the instruments are played in several different and unorthodox fashions or whether there are significant variables in the score, allowing for substantial differences between individual performances of the piece. The performance we do get to hear is intriguing, with oddly tuned strings, overblown clarinet, passages of relative stillness and silence, abrupt minor explosions of sound; throughout there is a real sense of dialogue, of performers listening to one another, of parts adding up to a whole.
 
The works by Zieliński and Schwenke are the most satisfying things here, The strings of Consonare per Varsavia make an excellent contribution throughout, under the direction of Jan Stanienda, in support of the obviously considerable skills of Artur Pachlewski.
 
Glyn Pursglove
 


 


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