Contemporary Music from Gdańsk
Krzysztof OLCZAK (b.1956)
Concerto for accordion and orchestra (1989) [14:35]
Andrzej DZIADEK (b.1957)
Stabat Mater for soprano and string orchestra (1997) [11:02]
Radosław ŁUCZKOWSKI (b.1976)
Concertino for piano and strings (2014) [12:12]
Tadeusz DIXA (b.1983)
Concerto for horn and orchestra (2010) [17:17]
Marek CZERNIEWICZ (b.1974)
To the Cuddled One into the Violin for four violins and string orchestra (2014) [6:29]
Paweł Zagańczyk (accordion)
Małgorzata Rocławska (soprano)
Tomasz Jocz (piano)
Michał Szczerba (horn)
Wojciech Szlachcikowski, Paweł Kukliński, Karolina Piątkowska-Nowicka, Anna Wandtke-Wypych (violins)
Chamber Orchestra of the Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk/Tadeusz Dixa
rec. 13-15 March 2015, Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk Concert Hall
DUX 1257 [61:38]

This new release from Dux contains some superb music by five Polish composers, given assured and compelling performances. Each of the works featured is relatively short, the longest running just shy of 15 minutes. What strikes me is the quality and diversity of the scores on offer. None of the music is wayward or particularly challenging. It is both accessible and tonally based, steering clear of avant-garde trends. All of the composers are living and working in Poland, the youngest, Tadeusz Dixa, who conducts these performances, is still in his early thirties.

Krzysztof Olczak, the eldest, being born in 1956, is represented by an Accordion Concerto, which was written in 1989 and premiered in 1993. As well as being a composer, Olczak is an accordionist himself and has won several prizes in this role over the years, in Auckland, New Zealand, Italy and Poland. He is currently professor of accordion and composition at the Academy of Music in Gdańsk. The Concerto started life in an orchestral version, but is here scaled down to chamber proportions. I’ve never heard the accordion in ensemble before; the nearest I’ve come is the bandoneon music of Astor Piazzolla – not quite the same thing. Nevertheless, I’m won over by the instrument’s unique, individual sound. The Concerto is a busy, bustling piece. For most of the duration there’s no let up in the pace, but towards the end things simmer down, and long sustained chords underscore the accordion’s persistent chatter.

The Stabat Mater by Andrzej Dziadek was composed in 1997 and is scored for soprano and string orchestra. It was a commission by the Musica Sacra Festival in Skoczów and bears a dedication to Pope John Paul II. This has to be my favourite. The orchestration is lightly textured and the work is dynamically subdued. The strings are ardent and yearning. Małgorzata Rocławska is magnificent, her voice having an innocent purity. She projects the sadness and pain of Christ’s mother in her plaintive delivery. The sense of loneliness and isolation is overwhelming.

The piano takes centre-stage in the next work, with a concerto by Radosław Łuczkowski. Composed fairly recently in 2014, it is heavily indebted to Bartók and Prokofiev. The piano writing is technically demanding and exacts its pound of flesh from the soloist. A restless, agitated opening is followed by a restrained, lyrical central section. The music once again gathers pace in the final part.

Tadeusz Dixa, who conducts these compelling readings, specializes in contemporary music performance. His two-movement Horn Concerto dates from 2010 and was a graduation piece. The first movement is tranquil and sedate, with a solemn air surrounding the narrative. It feels as though the horn is wandering in a lonely landscape. The second movement, by contrast, is forceful and assertive.

To the Cuddled One into the Violin for four violins and string orchestra was written by Marek Czerniewicz in 2014 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Professor Jerzy Hazuka’s teaching career. It’s a tribute from his students. Hazuka had a predilection for the slow movements of early violin concertos, and this acts as an inspiration for the composition. The four violins take on the role of soloist, in a piece that exudes a surfeit of melody and lyricism. Traditional harmonies are used throughout.

These imaginatively orchestrated works benefit from the strongly argued performances of the Gdańsk players. Their incandescent and intuitive playing will leave listeners gratified. A further bonus is the sound, which is demonstration class.

Stephen Greenbank

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