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Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b.1933)
Works for Cellos and Orchestra
Concerto Grosso No.1 for 3 Cellos and Orchestra (2000) [35:28]
Largo for Cello and Orchestra (2003) [27:29]
Sonata for Cello and Orchestra (1964) [11:11]
Ivan Monighetti (Concerto, Largo); Arto Noras (Concerto, Sonata); Rafał Kwiatkowski (Concerto) (cellos)
Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra/Antoni Wit
rec. Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, Poland, 18-21 February 2007. DDD.
NAXOS 8.570509 [74:08]
Experience Classicsonline

If, like me, you think of Penderecki, especially in his more recent compositions, as the acceptable face of the avant-garde, even as a bit of an old romantic at heart, youíll enjoy most of his music on this recording.†
For those who are as yet unacquainted with Penderecki, or have heard that heís a bit of a tough nut to crack, I donít wish to lead you to expect some kind of easy-listening experience, but you should find the music worth the effort.† And if you like what you hear, you can move on to the other Naxos recordings directed by Antoni Wit, advertised on the tray insert.† The most recent of these, the Te Deum, was reviewed by Robert Hugill in January, 2008.† (8.557980 Ė see review with a link to a second review by Dan Morgan).
The very title of Concerto Grosso No.1 indicates a conscious harking back on Pendereckiís part to pre-classical models.† In fact, the music which springs most readily to mind is not the baroque concerto, so much as Bartůkís Concerto for Orchestra; it may not be in quite that class, but itís music with a ready appeal without being in any way facile.† Iíve seen the work described as formulaic and over-extended, but I donít share those feelings.† Pitting three cellos against the orchestra may seem like overkill and itís certainly hard to distinguish the three instruments separately or to appreciate what the notes describe as Pendereckiís full use of the interplay between them and the orchestra Ė the recording is good, though a little too thick-textured, up-close and personal for my liking Ė but I enjoyed both the music and the performance.† The rhapsodic finale (track 6) makes a first-rate impression.
The Largo for Cello and Orchestra of 2003 is actually a three-movement concerto, one of Rostropovichís last commissions; he gave the premiŤre performance in 2005.† Ironically, though two of the movements are marked Adagio, none is actually a Largo.† It says what it has to say more concisely than the Concerto Grosso, and is all the better for that; some listeners will consider its inclusion the major attraction of the new recording.† Itís certainly a more challenging work, especially the impassioned central sections of the Andante con moto second movement (tr.8) and the Adagio finale (tr.9), but it is well worth the effort.† If you can cope with Shostakovich, especially his second and more enigmatic Cello Concerto, you should be able to take this music in your stride.
The Cello Sonata of 1964 is a short and comparatively lightweight piece, though scored for a large orchestra, with a battery of percussion.† It consists of two movements without tempo indications, neither of which seems to me quite as playful as the notes claim.† I have to admit that I found it rather pointless, too experimental and posturing for my liking and, therefore, the least enjoyable item on the disc.† Just to show how unpredictable a thing the appreciation of music can be, as I close this review Iíve just read another review of this CD which claims the Cello Sonata as the most impressive work of the three!
Apart from Arto Noras, who is especially effective in the Largo, I hadnít encountered any of the cello soloists before but they and the orchestra give good accounts of themselves under the safe guidance of Antoni Wit, whose presence in this music is almost a guarantee of quality.
None of these works is claimed as receiving its premiŤre recording, but I havenít been able to track down any other versions in the current catalogue.
The notes, by Richard Whitehouse, are brief but to the point.† The recording, as I have indicated in the Concerto Grosso, is a little too close and resonant throughout, with the soloists particularly forward, but perfectly acceptable.† The cover art, as usual with Naxos, is very apt.
You might not choose this as your favourite late-night listening Ė itís perhaps a little too unsettling for that Ė but the new recording represents a welcome addition to Naxosís already valuable repertoire of Pendereckiís music.
Brian Wilson
Reviews of other Penderecki recordings on Naxos

8.557386/7 Polish Requiem review
8.554567 Symphonies 1 & 5 review
8.555265 Violin concertos review
8.557052 Sextet, clarinet qt review
8.557149 St Luke's Passion review
8.557253 Violin sonatas review review
8.557766 Symphony 7 review
8.557980 Te Deum review review



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