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Pawel LUKASZEWSKI (b. 1968)
Sinfonietta (2004) [9:06]
From Symphony of Providence: Adagietto (2006/2009) [8:41]
Lenten Music (2012) [15:16]
Mikolaj GORECKI (b. 1971)
Concerto Notturno [16:51]
Divertimento (2009) [12:09]
Baltic Neopolis Orchestra/Tomasz Tomaszewski (soloist/concertmaster)
rec. 30 September-3 October 2012, Gorzów Philharmonic.
DUX 0855 [63:03]

I very much admired Mikołaj Górecki’s music on my first encounter (see review), and in linking his music with that of Pawel Łukaszewski Dux makes for an equally strong release. Łukaszewski’s Sinfonietta opens with tremendous impact, the Allegro molto getting about as much energetically rousing drama from a string orchestra as it is impossible to imagine. This is followed by a beautifully plangent Adagio and another punchy Andantino, adding spicy flageolet techniques to flourishes which lead up to a final Comodo which has a bit more of an underlying John Adams ‘Shaker Loops’ ostinato feel.

Łukaszewski is a graduate of the Fryderyk Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw, and the Polish character of his music is distinctively part of the post avant-garde generations who inherited the need to find their own voice after the powerful legacy of Lutoslawski and Penderecki. His Adagietto is gorgeous but somewhat cinematic, heavy vibrato emphasising the loaded sentiment in the slower sections in the music, relieved here and there by highly charged but somewhat fragmentary dramatic sections. It’s not Mahler, but it does have a magnetic power which can only grow on repeated listening. Łukaszewski’s other contribution, Lenten Music is again a more reflective work as the title would suggest, the moods and atmospheres of mists and falling leaves potently expressed in a language of regret and gentle anguish which has some wonderful moments.

Mikołaj Górecki’s music is if anything even more grounded in Polish character, and the juicy harmonies which underlie the violin solo at the opening of his Concerto take us straight into that world of emotionally charged serenity which can sing out or explode into energetic rhythm at any point, as occurs in the second movement Allegro. This has some demanding passages for the soloist Tomasz Tomaszewski, who just about makes it through without too much trauma. This is highly approachable music, but more memorable in the extremes of the slow movements, the Molto Lento finale placing us in high registers which deliver an enigma which crystallizes beautifully.

The Divertimento which closes this programme is another richly fragrant exploration of moods which embrace sadness, loneliness, wherever your associations bring you when the world slows down and you are allowed to reflect on past times forever lost. Even the Con moto central movement can’t lift us too far away from this Vaseline-hazed melancholy, though there is some biting drama to get our teeth into, and the final Allegro is a fittingly exciting and playful train journey with which to end the recording.

Superbly performed and recorded, this release is also nicely presented until you read the notes and find there is nothing on the actual music – plenty about the artists and composer biographies, but no background to the pieces, which is a little frustrating though the works can easily speak for themselves. If you like your string orchestra music refreshing and with a touch of sentimentality then this will fill the bill.

Dominy Clements