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Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b. 1933)
Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra (1967) [12:52];
De Natura Sonoris No. 2 (1971) [7:13];
Piano Concerto “Resurrection” (2001/2002) [32:59]
Patrycja Piekutowska (violin), Beata Bilinska (piano)
The National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra Katowice/Krzysztof Penderecki
rec. December 2005 and September 2006, Grzegorz Fitelberg Concert Hall, Katowice. DDD
DUX 0582 [53:18]

Penderecki’s music has always excited me, and this recording was no disappointment. Starting with the Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra, we are transported into a soundworld of drama, dissonance and an excellent understanding of balance. Piekutowska’s violin playing here is full of character, aggression, emotion and beauty of expression as the music demands it, with an obvious understanding of the style. As a violinist himself, the composer is well aware of the capabilities of the instrument, and the technical virtuosity so impressively displayed here cannot go unmentioned. The orchestra supports with gusto and passion, with the percussion and brass playing particularly notable in its strength. The composer deploys orchestral colours to full effect, making use of instrumental groups in isolation and challenging our ideas of a traditional orchestral sound. Always convincing, this is music that speaks its own language.
De Natura Sonoris No 2 is an astonishing piece. Full of ethereal sounds, this is reminiscent of the sort of music one would expect to hear in a horror movie. The way Penderecki creates the sounds of nature through a standard symphony orchestra is highly atmospheric and convincing – and completely captivating. Layer upon layer of rich trills build up [3:17] to create a tapestry of insects, crawling over their prey. Blasts from the brass section in Penderecki’s distinct harmonic language take over, resembling the oncoming of elephants, although the bell suggests the approach of a train. A resounding thud, and then silence. A crash? The sounds continue into the distance, passing by and restoring the equilibrium. The liner notes suggest that this is a study in movement in music, and this seven minute work is full of direction. Each sound makes the listener experience something new, constantly evolving and often surprising. Despite its abstract meaning, one cannot help but impose a personal story-line onto this short work. It fuels the imagination. Composed for the Juilliard School in 1971, this is a real gem in the repertoire.
With its military style opening, the Piano Concerto could initially be mistaken perhaps for something composed by one of Penderecki’s Russian counterparts, maybe even Prokofiev or Shostakovich. However, within just a few seconds, Penderecki’s distinctive three note motif is ever-present - it also features prominently in the flute concerto of 1992 - giving an obvious sense of the composer’s style. This work is in many ways different from the other two in this disc. More melodic, with distinctive rhythmic drive, the composer’s late style is much developed from the earlier works presented here. Although Penderecki has taken steps towards a more tonally centred style, the writing is mature and structurally clear. Within the context of September 11th (this work was composed in 2001-2), the title, Resurrection deals with man’s need to start afresh and to make new beginnings. The slower sections have an emotional depth which gives the impression of the composer wearing his heart on his sleeve, maybe even traced with a sense of nostalgia. These fleeting moments are replaced with the driving rhythmic energy of the opening, the performers handling the swift changes of pace and mood more than capably. There is a constant sense of unfolding development and under the direction of the composer himself, one would expect this to be fairly close to a definitive performance. The piano playing is clear, controlled and technically impressive. The part makes use mostly of the instrument’s percussive qualities, although there are also moments of melodic beauty. Bilinska plays with a kaleidoscope of colours and emotions. This is an exciting performance, which is thoroughly gripping from the very beginning to its exhilarating end.
This is an excellent recording, which would serve as a good introduction to Penderecki’s works.
The playing is of a consistently high standard and the music contained on the disc is thoroughly engaging.

Carla Rees

see also review by Dominy Clements 


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