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. Slawomir Czarnecki's 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.
With a natural recording balance, and fine, enthusiastic notes,
I’m looking forward to the next release from this imaginative
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