Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b.1933)
Viola Concerto (1983) [20:21]
Cello Concerto No. 2 (1982) [37:12]
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra/Antoni Wit
rec. Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw, 2-5 September 2008. DDD
NAXOS 8.572211 [57:33]

The two concertos collected on this disc are intense works for solo instruments and orchestra. Both were composed around the same time. Both are continuous, with the series of sections approximately the same: seven for the Viola Concerto and eight for Cello Concerto no. 2. The performances recorded here are compelling for the intensity they evoke.
Of the two, the Viola Concerto merits attention as an excellent twentieth century contribution to the genre. In contrast to the conventional multi-movement structure associated with concertos, this continuous score stands apart on account of the drive it sustains from the opening section to the final one. At its core is the alternation between the contrasting passages for solo instrument and full orchestra. There is a real interplay of textures here and Pendereckiís ideas emerge from the sonorities at the opening for solo instrument and from the initial passage for orchestra. While the work starts and ends in a solemn, somewhat somber mode, the contrasting sections suggest arch-form. The impression is underlined by the Scherzo-like passages in the Meno mosso and Vivo sections. Those passages have a lighter character which allows soloist Grigori Zhislin to demonstration his facility and Wit to shape the entire piece convincingly.
A more extroverted work, Pendereckiís Cello Concerto no. 2 is impressive for its powerful musical invention. Part of the attraction is the way in which the timbres and musical ideas fit each other so well. The idiomatic character of the solo part adroitly and effectively complements the character of the cello. Within the eight sections of this Concerto, Penderecki plays on the outlines of conventional structure to evoke the sense of a sonata movement; thus the slow introduction leads naturally to the Vivo that comes after it. While breaking from conventional concerto format, Penderecki establishes other structural relationships. This approach allows him to renew the role of the cello, playing, at times on concertante-like sections, as with the Allegretto. This is an engaging work that invites re-hearings to appreciate more thoroughly the various elements of the solo line, the orchestral voice, and the various intersecting combinations of instruments.
This recording offers a side of Penderecki which deserves hearing. While the two works collected here are not of the same magnitude, the composerís use of various sections to create new structures anticipates the ways in which he would do this on a larger scale in his Seventh Symphony ďThe Gates of JerusalemĒ. In the two concertos found here, though, the works are more contained and they are well worth exploring.

James L Zychowicz

These two concertos are well worth exploring.