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Per Clavicembalo Moderno
Hanna KULENTY (b.1961)
E for E (1991) [6:20]
Zbigniew BARGIELSKI (b.1937)
Le cristal flamboyant (2002) [10:48]
Marta PTASZYŃSKA (b.1943)
Touracou (1974) [4:20]
Wojciech WIDŁAK (b.1971)
Chromatic Fantasy (2003) [7:26]
Marcel CHYRZYŃSKI (b.1971)
Reflection No.2 (2005) [4:30]
Aleksandra GRYKA (b.1977)
Nonstopping (2000) [4:31]
Zygmunt KRAUZE (b.1938)
Commencement (1982) [3:15]
Włodzimierz KOTOŃSKI (b.1925)
Aurora borealis (1998) [11:03]
Gośka Isphording (harpsichord)
rec. October 2006, Krakow and April 2007, Warsaw
DUX 0605 [52:35]


Experience Classicsonline

First there was Elżbieta (Elizabeth) Chojnacka and now there is Gośka Isphording. Elżbieta Chojnacka created an enviable and well deserved reputation as one of the finest interpreters of modern music on the harpsichord. Works have been written specifically for her by, amongst others, Ligeti, Zennakis and Nyman. Now another Polish harpsichordist of a younger generation, Gośka Isphording, has picked up the baton, playing – and commissioning – works for the instrument by many contemporary composers, who include Katarzyna Głowicka, Mariusz Dubaj, Anna S. Thorvaldsdottir and Anna Jędrzejewska - not to mention some of the compositions represented on the present CD.

Isphording - who doesn’t appear to have made any previous appearance in these pages - studied in Krakow and at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. She then studied for a postgraduate degree in contemporary harpsichord techniques at the Conservatory in Amsterdam. She combined this with work at the Mozarteum in Salzburg – where her teacher was Chojnacka.

Now based in the Netherlands, Isphording is active both as a soloist and as a member of the chamber group The Roentgen Connection. On the present, thoroughly stimulating CD she plays some pieces first written for Chojnacka as well as some of her own commissions.

Hannah Kulenty studied with Włodzimierz Kotoński and Louis Andriessen and her ‘E for E’ was written for Elżbieta Chojnacka in 1991. It is a dazzling toccata-like creation, full of energy and aggression and gets an exhilarating performance from Isphording. ‘Płonący kryształ’ (‘Le cristal flamboyant’) by Zbigniew Bargielski was also written for Elżbieta Chojnacka, who gave the first performance in Salzburg in 2002. It is one of two pieces on this disc which make use of pre-recorded tape as well as harpsichord. If I understand Bargielski’s brief note in the booklet correctly, the soloist has a certain freedom in how exactly he or she relates the harpsichord part to the electronic sound on the tape. The piece starts off rather broodily and becomes predominantly meditative, incorporating some lovely bell-like textures at one point; some of the harpsichord writing has a quasi-baroque quality, some is more obviously modern; gradually the interplay between harpsichord and electronic tape gets tenser and the piece takes on a fiercely percussive quality. This is a rewarding, satisfyingly complex piece. Marta Ptaszyńska’s ‘Touracou’, by way of contrast, has a kind of programmatic dimension which establishes (in purpose, if not in style) a connection with baroque pieces such as Rameau’s ‘La Poule’ or ‘Le rappel des oiseaux’, since the touracou is a species of African bird, adorned with a brightly coloured crest, and predominantly bright red and green in colour. Ptaszyńska’s piece is appropriately full of sparkle and tonal colour, with repeated changes of registration. A delightful miniature!

Wojciech Widłak’s ‘Chromatic Fantasy’ - which carries the puzzling subtitle ‘The Son is Scrumptious’ - is almost entirely built on a single five note motive, which is subjected to many changes and transpositions; the resulting piece begins quite simply and builds to a many-layered structure of considerable complexity. Isphording’s performance – and the piece was commissioned by her – is a model of clarity (aided by an impressively clear recorded sound), successfully elucidating many of the fugal and contrapuntal complexities. In ‘Reflection No.2’, Marcel Chyrzyński has written a single movement piece which yet has three distinct phases, a slow section, a fast section and a coda which reuses some of the material from the opening section; the whole is marked by many emphatic accents and repetitions which build up a compelling momentum. Aleksandra Gryka’s ‘Nonstopping’ was written with Gośka Iphording in mind, at a time when Fryka was still a student in Krakow - she studied composition there with Krystyna Moszumańska-Nazar. Gryka’s note observes “The title refers mainly to the construction … but what it exactly means, I’d rather not say”. In an engaging piece full of strong rhythms there are moments when one is tempted to take the title as some kind of railway reference!

Zygmunt Krauze’s ‘Commencement’ was written in Vienna in January 1982 – the date matters because it follows on shortly from the imposition of martial law in Poland. The piece’s nature and purpose is so well described by the composer that it seems sensible to quote his words, rather than reduce them to paraphrase: “The music expresses dramatic circumstances connected with it [i.e. the imposition of martial law] and feelings of powerless anger towards the political regime. The piece is like a scream for help, which never arrives. Commencement is based on one short rhythmical-melodic motive, continuously repeated and transformed. At the beginning the motive is presented in high register and then gradually goes lower and lower until the end of the piece”. This was another piece written for Elżbieta Chojnacka, who gave the premiere in Paris in 1982. It is hard, though, to believe that she could have made more of its bleakness and sense of confinement than Gośka Iphording does. This is disturbing listening … and with good reason. Gośka Iphording closes her programme with the second work written for harpsichord and tape: Włodzimierz Kotoński’s ‘Aurora Borealis’ - something of an odd one out in this programme, since it was commissioned, and first performed, by the Japanese harpsichordist Michiyo Honma. There is rather less ‘dialogue’ between taped sound and harpsichordist than there is in Bargielski’s ‘Le crystal flamboyant’. Here the taped sound (apparently it is actually on CD!) provides a background rather than a dialogic partner. This is another piece which has a programmatic element, offering as it does, amongst other things, an attempt to create a kind of aural evocation of the Northern Lights. There is some virtuosic keyboard work by Isphording and some fascinating moments of ‘rhyme’, as it were, between pre-recorded electronic sound and harpsichord. This is an impressive and striking piece, and it rounds off an exciting and challenging programme.

Glyn Pursglove


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