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Landscape of Memories
Hanna KULENTY (b.1961)
A Cradle Song (1993) [9:35]
Zbigniew BARGIELSKI (b.1937)
Landscape of Memories (1995/6, rev. 2012) [18:57]
Roxanna PANUFNIK (b.1968)
Around Three Corners (1996, rev. 2009) [9:11]
Zygmunt MYCIELSKI (1907-19870
Piano Trio (1933/4) [9:33]
Andrzej PANUFNIK (1914-1991)
Piano Trio Op.1 (1934, recon. 1945, rev. 1985) [18:03]
BMF Piano Trio
rec. Pomeranian Philharmonic Concert Hall, 16-18 August 2012
CD ACCORD ACD 191-2 [64:07]

The CD gains its title from the piece by Bargielski. Exactly what memories are being celebrated is unclear. The derelict industrial landscape against which the players pose is unnamed. It is more than a bit sinister and one wonders if it has links back to Poland's tortured past.
 
The booklet essay explains that few Polish works exist for piano trio and that fact alone makes this issue unusual. These young players are very fine indeed and they have been fortunate to get very good engineering for their efforts. The music varies from the somewhat bland to the lyrical and dramatic.
 
It was no surprise to find that the most approachable and the most coherent music was by the single famous name, Andrzej Panufnik. His short trio was his Opus 1, and though it had to be reconstructed after the war, and was further revised late in his life, it is still a fresh work moving from a first movement full of struggle and drama, through an elegiac and moving slow movement to the urgent scherzo-like finale. It is by far the liveliest thing on the CD.
 
His friend and contemporary Zygmunt Mycielski is represented by a similarly early work but one sounding far less stylistically coherent. The nine or so minutes of this piece pass easily but do not remain in the mind as anything beyond craftsmanlike. The same, I regret to say, goes for Panufnik junior's piece Around Three Corners. Roxanne Panufnik has been much lauded during the last couple of decades. This moderately lively work requires the piano to be 'prepared' with pencils to change its timbre to something approaching that of a harpsichord. The six variations are divided in two groups separated by the theme at the centre. A diagram is provided to make it all clear. It is easy to hear and over very quickly in less than 10 minutes. For this listener it exited the memory equally fast.
 
Hanna Kulenty's impressive A Cradle Song is a curiously titled piece and anything but a lullaby. It builds up from a repeated cello phrase which has strong hints of folk music to a powerful climax, more nightmare than cradle song. After this it dies away quickly leaving the strings playing ghostly remnants at the very edge of audibility: a coherent and powerful piece though again very short.
 
The longest piece is Zbigniew Bargielski's Landscape of Memories. At nearly twenty minutes without a break it is long by any chamber music standards. For me, even after two hearings, it remained aimless and dull. There is little change of pace and certainly nothing to explain the subtitle 'in memoriam Witold Lutosławski'. The booklet note goes to some lengths to explain what Bargielski is doing but this does nothing to lighten the darkness for at least this listener.
 
The disc is worth hearing for the Andrzej Panufnik and the Kulenty pieces.
 
Dave Billinge 


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