Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b. 1933)
Fonogrammi for Flute and Chamber Orchestra (1961) [7:49]
Capriccio for Oboe and Eleven Strings (1965) [5:51]
Concerto for Horn and Orchestra, “Winterreise” (2008) [18:12]
Sinfonietta No. 2 for Clarinet and Strings (1994) [15:22]
Agata Kielar-Długosz (flute); Arkadiusz Krupa (oboe); Kateřina Javůrková (horn); Arkadiusz Adamski (clarinet)
Polska Orkiestra Sinfonia Iuventus/Krzysztof Penderecki
rec. Witold Lutosławski Polish Radio Concert Studio, Warsaw, Poland, 14 November and 9, 12 and 13 December 2015
DUX 1274 [47:17]
This collection of Penderecki wind concertos makes a great deal of sense, but would have been much more valuable with at least one additional work. The 1992 Flute Concerto comes to mind, which would have brought the total timing to around 70 minutes. As it is, one feels a bit shortchanged, though the quality of the performances compensates to a large degree.
The range of Penderecki’s compositions from his avant-garde years of the 1960s to his later neo-Romantic works of the 1990’s and the present century is well documented here. The programme opens with Fonogrammi, one of the composer’s most dissonant pieces, overshadowed by his famous Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima composed around the same time. The piece begins with a burst of percussion and employs three different kinds of flutes, including piccolo. However, the flute as a true solo instrument does not enter until half way through the work. I reviewed an excellent account by Urzula Janik with the Warsaw Philharmonic under Antoni Wit on a Naxos CD [review] and the new performance is its equal in every way. If anything, the sound on the Dux disc has a bit more depth and presence than the Naxos, but both are really fine. Fonogrammi still startles, as it must have when it was new.
Capriccio, unlike Fonogrammi, has the solo instrument present from the get-go and playing throughout. The work contains highly virtuosic writing for the oboe with all kinds of effects, including glissandi, trills, and what sounds like multiphonics. The strings accompany with their own glissandi and much pizzicato. The piece then ends on a single oboe note. Capriccio, as the title suggest, has its humorous side and makes quite a racket. The nearly six minutes of the work are quite sufficient, and oboist Arkadiusz Krupa seems well up to the task.
It is a big leap to the 2008 Horn Concerto, a work that has grown on me since I first heard Jennifer Montone’s performance on the same Naxos disc cited above. It is well written for the horn, but the full-sized orchestra also has an important role. The horn part, like that of the oboe in the Capriccio, employs glissandi and multiphonics. The work in other regards, though, is much more traditional. It is typical of the composer’s later music in that there are echoes of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, all filtered through Penderecki’s own neo-Romantic style. In a few places the music reminded me of Star Wars in its darkest mood, not so much the horn per se, but rather in the depths of the orchestra. I find much more to like in the Horn Concerto than in Penderecki’s long-winded contemporaneous “Resurrection” Piano Concerto. As in Fonogrammi, there is little to choose between Kateřina Javůrková’s performance here and Montone’s on the earlier disc. Both are terrific and both receive superb support from their respective orchestras. The Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra made its debut only in 2008 and was new to me, but in this work it impresses as much as the Warsaw Philharmonic does for Wit. With the composer’s imprimatur as conductor, this account is certainly authoritative.
The final selection on the CD is a transcription by Penderecki of his Quartet for Clarinet and String Trio. The title, Sinfonietta, likely refers to the work’s four-movement structure: Nocturne, Scherzo, Serenade, and Abschied. It is, however, a true clarinet concerto whose transparent textures are indicative of its origins as chamber music. The Nocturne begins with a haunting clarinet solo and is generally reflective and melancholy—really quite beautiful. The Scherzo is rhythmic in the Shostakovich manner and leads directly to the Serenade in waltz tempo where Penderecki nearly quotes Shostakovich’s First Symphony in the string writing. The last movement, Abschied (Farewell) is as long as the first three movements together. It is slow and somber and contains violin solos in addition to the clarinet’s principal role. As with the rest of the disc, the performance of the Sinfonietta No. 2 is exemplary.
Dux provides a thick booklet with good notes side-by-side in Polish and English on both the music and the artists. There is even a listing of the orchestra members. This disc is part of a Penderecki Special Edition and as such can be heartily recommended alongside the ongoing Naxos series. It would have had been a better buy, however, if another work had been included.