Weronika RATUSINSKA (b. 1977)
Cello Concerto (2008) [15:53]
Sinfonietta for string orchestra (2009) [20:31]
Gasherbrum for small orchestra (1997) [9:23]
Divertimenti per archi (1998) [11:14]
Symphony for the Great Symphonic Orchestra (2008) [13:53]
Tomasz Strahl (cello)
Silesian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/Miroslaw Jacek Blaszczyk
rec. Karol Stryja Silesian Philharmonic, Katowice Concert Hall November 2009. DDD.
DUX 0723 [70:54]

Weronika Ratusinska was born in Warsaw and studied there at the Fryderyk Chopin Music Academy with Wlodzimierz Kotonski and Stanislaw Moryto. In 2001-02 she studied with Louis Andriessen and Martijn Padding at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague.

The Cello Concerto is, according to the composer’s notes: “…a trial of synthesis of east and repetitive music, which is rooted in jazz but also in activities of artists who create minimal art.” Beware: this is one of those booklets where the translations are as inventive with language as the composer is with her musical imagination. What the composer means is that she had brought together some modes from eastern music, and married them to minimal procedures. Forget that. This is actually a very good work, colourful, vibrant, strongly melodic, and displaying an inventive and active imagination. It was written for Tomasz Strahl and he gives a totally authoritative performance.

The Sinfonietta is written in a less complex style. The first movement is a canon, quite vivacious and filled with an infectious spirit. The second movement exploits harmonics and glissando in the outer sections, enclosing a strong square dance. The finale uses a figure reminiscent from Steve Reich Violin Phase and builds on it, the music coming to a “further culmination”, as the booklet tells us. I fail to understand this. It’s a very successful piece and totally engrossing, and if you like Grazyna Bacewicz’s Concerto for Strings (1948), or Wojciech Kilar’s Orawa (1988), you’ll love it.

Gasherbrum is a student work in which, “It is worth to pay attention to how the repetitiveness of musical thoughts slows down the pace of course of events, so to say prolongs time, which becomes stopped, slowered, considered.” It also, “is an expression of my fascination with beauty of Himalayas, and the Buddhist spirit of Tibet.” This is all interesting but misleading. Starting with Eastern sounds filtered through Madame Butterfly, it progresses into some not very convincing chinoiserie with flute and harp. However, if you forget the programme note, which seems to bear no relevance to the music, you’ll find quite an attractive piece which contains a nicely rhythmic middle section which reappears at the end.

The Divertimenti per archi commences with a very commonplace call to attention, then becomes marvellously engaging chatter. The middle movement is a gentle country dance - this could almost be Gustav Holst! - and the finale a wild dithyramb.

The Symphony for the Great Symphonic Orchestra brings us back to the very serious and probing music with which we started. It is the result of the composer wishing to write a work which utilises the phase shifting techniques of John Adams and Steve Reich. Ratusinska certainly achieves her goal but at the expense of losing her own personality. The scoring is brilliant and colourful, like the Cello Concerto, and equally as gripping but not as excitingly original.

My comments concerning the Symphony notwithstanding, it is obvious that Ratusinska is a composer to be reckoned with. She has talent, and a vivid imagination. These performances are all one could wish for and they have done the composer proud. The sound is excellent, bright and stunning, but beware the notes in the English translation in the booklet. A must for anyone interested in new music and a good introduction for those wanting to dip their toes in the contemporary music pool

Bob Briggs

A composer to be reckoned with.