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Zygmunt KRAUZE (b. 1938)
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1976) [19:19]
Fète galante e pastorale (1975) [16:17]
Violin Concerto (1980) [21:45]
Suite de danses et de chansons (1977) [17:53]
Zygmunt Krauze (piano), Konstanty Andrzej Kulka (violin), Ezlbeta Chojnacka (harpsichord, Suite)
Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Wojciech Michniewski (Piano Concerto, Suite); Jacek Rogala (Fète galant); Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra/Tadeusz Strugala (Violin Concerto).
rec. 1980 (Violin Concerto), 1995 (Fète gallant), 1998 (Piano Concerto) and 2000 (Suite). Polish Radio – venues not specified
DUX 0996 (BOLT BR 1201) [75:14]

For those interested in contemporary music, the 1960s and 1970s in Poland was a period of great significance. That’s especially true for those of us now ‘of a certain age’ and with a recollection of those Warsaw Autumn records which were always filled with the exciting and the unexpected.
 
Zygmunt Krauze was a name which stood out for me at the time, and this CD has a dual function of returning us to those ‘classic’ explorations of unique sonority, as well as expanding a knowledge and appreciation of Krauze’s qualities in creating magical worlds with conventional instrumentation.
 
The Piano Concerto is a luminous example of this, with filigree solo lines elaborating over shimmering and slow-moving string textures in the opening, the work weaving a spell which holds threads of connections to Romantic concertos – perhaps those of Rachmaninov – while conjuring a space of infinite poignancy and yearning in a relatively abstract but unmistakable ‘tonal’ language. Krauze likes to have the orchestra and soloist speak as one voice at times, and Britten is hinted at in the middle of the piece. The yearning is towards a melody which is latent but never really evoked. You expect the music to settle, but the sense of flight or floating is held onto and doesn’t resolve, even in the sublimely poetic and gentle cadenzas and cripplingly beautiful, elongated passages with orchestra.
 
Fète galante e pastorale is a piece everyone needs to hear. It opens in a sort of gloriously psychedelic lounge area with succulent harmonies grounded by notes from a bass guitar, and garlanded with figures in canon with vibraphone and others keeping up a sort of bizarre LSD induced blurry vision of semi-luxury hotel-lobby limbo where even the harpsichord is decadent. This is only the first couple of minutes however, and the subsequent strange world of rare and unusual, sometimes unearthly sonorities take us into that pastorale, but again in a landscape where nothing is what it seems and all of the shepherds are on some trip induced by something a little stronger than fresh air. Massed fifes, hurdy-gurdies and folk violins amongst the civilising influence of a conventional string orchestra make for exotic listening and as I say, this is a work which needs to be experienced.
 
The Violin Concerto is a ‘cataclysmic beauty’, with an intensity and passion you will rarely hear in music of our times. The scales and resultant harmonies have a ‘folk’ flavour, but the idiom is expressionist and turbulent – in the way dark and spectacular storm clouds are expressionist and turbulent. Elongated string textures earlier on and the dramatic bell-like impact of the orchestral gestures further along all retain a foothold in both past and present, while the violin solo is pregnant with those emotion-laden Kol nidre melodic shapes which communicate directly with the soul.
 
The Suite de danses et de chansons has the harpsichord in its sonic foreground, giving the piece an instant antique quality while putting the players through paces at times minimalistic, but often with the swiftly ‘hopping’ rhythms of Bulgarian folk dance keeping us all on our toes. The orchestra sound is given fascinating added flavours through the addition of mandolins and accordions, and while there are darker undercurrents the piece is great fun, with quieter movements which parallel and equal your Baltic ‘Holy’ composers mood for mood.
 
This is a ‘must-have’ CD for anyone interested in quality contemporary music, and I would urge this on you in much the same way as I would urge healthier eating and a better work/rest ratio. If you’ve never heard the work of Zygmunt Krauze you are in for a real treat. These are recordings brought together from disparate sources but all are excellent, as are the performances. Supported by the Polish Ministry of Culture, this is the kind of release us composers in most other countries can only dream.
 
Dominy Clements