Wojciech Ziemowit ZYCH (b.1976)
Symphony No. 1 (2001-2) [31:31]
Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Orchestra (2003) [31:28]
Stirrings of the Will (2005-6) [8:56]
Michał Górczyński (bass clarinet)
The Orchestra of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Białystok/Prezemysław Fiugajski
rec. 18-20 August 2007, Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Concerto Hall, Białystok, Poland DDD
DUX 0722 [72:09]
This disc is part of a series entitled Young Polish Composers in Homage to Frederic Chopin. It’s supported by the European Krzystof Penderecki Music Centre and the City of Warsaw. The series provides an excellent opportunity to hear the music of 13 selected Polish composers who might otherwise have not had the chance to reach an international audience.
Wojiech Ziemowit Zych was born in 1976, and his music is enticing from the outset. He has a clear understanding of orchestration and uses the orchestra to provide a rich variety of textures and colours. In the first movement of his Symphony No 1, he makes particularly good use of the low tessitura of the orchestra, with low brass featuring heavily, and a small string section allowing the wind and brass to take dominance. By contrast, the second movement opens with high-pitched sounds from around the orchestra, the pitches passing between instruments to build up a pulsating line which possesses its own sense of life and energy. The symphony was commissioned by the Siemens Foundation for the Warsaw Autumn Contemporary Music Festival, and demonstrates originality of thought and a developed musical aesthetic. One can detect the influence of Penderecki, and the reliance on wind and brass in the scoring makes the listener draw comparison with contemporary wind orchestra pieces such as those by Karel Husa, for example. Zych creates space within the orchestral sound very well, and the music never feels overcrowded. Structures are not immediately obvious on first hearing, but there is a sense of coherence and flow throughout which lends a sense of direction to each movement, moving between moments of complexity and more static sections.
The Concerto for Bass Clarinet uses larger orchestral forces and features strongly rhythmic elements in the opening movement. The piece has a broad programmatic concept, with the soloist taking on the role of an individual outside of society. The two movements describe adventures and emotions respectively, with the opening movement often developing in unexpected directions through frequent juxtapositions of texture and mood. The harmonic language seems simpler here than in the symphony, making use of patterns such as the harmonic series and tonally-based chord patterns. The piece has a rhythmic energy and once again, Zych demonstrates his skill for orchestration. Overall in the recording I’d like the bass clarinet to have a little more prominence; balance issues would undoubtedly be a problem with an orchestra of this size, despite careful scoring. That said, I feel the soloist could be further into the foreground of the recording without the results sounding forced. Michał Górczyński performs with bravura and excellent technical control. The second movement is more introspective, and the bass clarinet takes on a lovely warm tone. Duos with the cello provide an effective variety of colour within the same pitch range, and the range of contemporary techniques used in both instruments adds an extra dimension to the expressive power of the piece. Trills and tremolos feature quite heavily in this movement, keeping a sense of life within slower-moving harmonies. This is an expressive work which gives a modern approach to the concerto in a convincing way.
The final work on the disc is the 9 minute Stirrings of the Will, based on the philosophical ideals of Schopenhauer. The music coruscates through a variety of eruptions and fireworks, and there is a sense of the composer speeding up and slowing down our perception of time as the music evolves. The more static moments hold a sense of timbral beauty and maintain interest through the detail in the sound, while moments of tutti energy impress with their sense of power and strength.
The orchestra performs with conviction throughout, giving contrast between the poetic, delicate moments and the sections of full-on power. I look forward to hearing more discs from this series.
Enticing music evincing a clear understanding of orchestration and a rich variety of textures and colours.