Krzysztof BACULEWSKI (b.1950)
Works for Orchestra
Ground (1981) [11:19]
A Walking Shadow (1990) [11:43]
Cantata – Les Adieux (2001-2008) [16:14]
Concerto for Orchestra (1982-83 revised 2009) [31:18]
Jadwiga Rappé (alto, Les Adieux)
Orchestra of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Bialystok/Szymon Bywalec
rec. July 2009, Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Concert Hall in Bialystok
DUX 0725 [31:18]

Baculewski, was born in Warsaw in 1950. He studied composition with Witold Rudsinski at the State College of Music and subsequently with Messiaen in Paris. He is now a composition professor at his alma mater in Warsaw, which has since been renamed the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music. An essayist, writer and reviewer he has also found the time to reconstruct Ignacy Dobrzynski’s 1824 Piano Concerto as well as other nineteenth century Polish works, not least Moniuszko’s opera Beata which he orchestrated.

His music is arresting, but predicated on established historic practices such as the Ground that gives its name to the title of his 1981 work. This does indeed open powerfully, though from 2:47 a harpsichord appears playing in a baroque style, apparently indifferent to the sense of glower and glitter around. Ostinati and variational form are the spine of the work, though so artfully constructed that one might not easily know. The outbursts have a Penderecki-like authority. A Walking Shadow (1990) derives from Macbeth; ‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is here no more…’ The composer apparently denies any programmatic implications. Again he uses the harpsichord as a responsive active agent in his sound world. The percussion section too is intimately involved, its contribution ominous. Colours throughout are heavy, dark, brooding. It’s not an especially easy listen – but then it’s not supposed to be.

I’ve recently been listening to the fine Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé singing a sheaf of Moniuszko songs. Here she is again. She sings Les Adieux, written for her, settings of five French poems - by Lamartine, Verlaine, Leconte de Lisle, and two by Apollinaire. The texts are here, but translated into Polish. The first four settings date from 2001, and the final one from 2008. The quick ‘broken phrases’ and slithering writing of the first setting is highly expressive. Baculewski infiltrates a Mahlerian figure into the third, though one might not notice (I certainly didn’t) and in Apollinaire’s L’adieu infuses, toward the very end, the spirit of Purcell’s Dido; quite an apposite move, and indicative of that communing spirit that sees him employing other composers’ music allusively within his own. The most rhythmically charged writing falls in the last song, where the alto is at her most formidable; she’s a fine musician indeed.

The longest work in this disc is the Bartók-sounding Concerto for Orchestra. The piccolo opens in birdsong, a recurrent feature, and there is plenty of colour and aeration, plenty of shifting textures and colours. The more visceral writing does again put one in mind of Penderecki, the avian ones of his erstwhile teacher Messiaen. The martial figures are unsettling, the percussion again staunch.

The composer is on record as advocating in his own music ‘a return to melody, sonorous beauty, consonances, phrasing and form’ [Baculewski, Output of Polish Composers, 1984]. This doesn’t however preclude moments of terse and sometimes unlikeable eruption. He is certainly a composer who values kinship and the primacy of tradition. Sensitive to form, rejecting obscurity, his works are impressively controlled, and powerfully conveyed, in this fine disc.

Jonathan Woolf

Impressively controlled and powerfully conveyed … a fine disc