Back to Melody
Wojciech KILAR (b.1932)
Orawa (1986) arr for string quartet by Krzysztof Urbanski [8:58]
Maciej MALECKI (b.1940)
Polish Suite for String Quartet (2007) [20:08]
Andante and Allegro for solo viola and five string instruments (2005) [19:36] ¹
Slawomir CZARNECKI (b.1949)
Quartet No.2 ‘Spiš’ (1997) [8:00]
Opium Quartet
with Wojciech Walczak (viola) and Radoslaw Nur (double bass) ¹
rec. January, June and December 2009, Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall
CD ACCORD ACD 163-2 [56:50]
You’ll get no argument from me regarding the disc’s title. This young quartet is devoted to these works, and presents them with real intensity and, indeed, joy in this, its first disc. I daresay that those who have not followed the course of Polish music since the mid to late 1970s - when some composers began a ‘return to roots’ policy, and embraced highlands’ music and folkloric inspiration - will be unfamiliar with the three composers recorded in this disc. If that’s the case, then I think you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.
Wojciech Kilar’s Orawa is the best known work here, but not in this form. It was originally written for string ensemble but has been arranged for quartet by Krzysztof Urbanski. It starts with a kind of ostinato minimalism, but soon lone voices emerge and there’s plenty of compelling folkloric inflexion thereafter. The swirling rhythms increase and the dynamics become more extreme. It’s very exciting, the ethos, crudely, I’d gauge as ‘Steve Reich meets the Lachian Dances’.
Maciej Malecki is the father of Opium’s viola player Magdalena Malecka and his Polish Suite was written for this group to premiere. It’s a lovely work. Filigree, tremolandi, filmic warmth and beautiful melodies - lissom, lilting and dancing - course through its veins. The final movement pays homage to the Krakowiak in the best possible way. His compact, two-movement String Quartet feasts on highlands’ folklore. The genesis is presumably Szymanowski but the sonorities are the kind you’ll hear in Tatra folk bands, though they’re rather less raw, obviously, in Malecki’s case. If you want a brief slice of primarius-led classical folklore, look no further.
Malecki has also written a kind of mini viola concerto for chamber forces; this includes quartet, viola and bass. If that suggests dark sonorities it’s not wholly borne out. The composition was to be performed as the BA exam piece of his daughter as soloist (as on the recording). She plays finely, and the Jewish ethos of the music is added to by a kind of neo-classical dancing finale by way of Grazyna Bacewicz. Exciting, and successful.

The piece written by Slawomir Czarnecki is the „Spiski” quartet (Spiski means pertaining to the Spisz Mountain region).

With a natural recording balance, and fine, enthusiastic notes, I’m looking forward to the next release from this imaginative young quartet.

Jonathan Woolf
I think you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.