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Pawel MYKIETYN (b. 1971)
Symphony No. 2 (2007) [29:42]
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (2013) [18:06]
Lukasz Dlugosz (flute)
NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic/Benjamin Shwartz
rec. March/June 2016, KGHM Main Hall of the Witold Lutoslawski National Forum of Music
CD ACCORD ACD236-2 [47:58]

There are detailed explanations and a considerable number of references in the booklet notes to this recording that add wider perspectives to the origins of Pawel Mykietyn’s award-winning Symphony No. 2, but while these certainly invite further investigation into this composer’s other works they aren’t particularly useful here unless you are already something of an expert.

For me, the one word that holds this symphony together as a fascinating whole is ‘enigma’. From the opening low tuba and wind sounds, a world is created that unfolds in a remarkable way. From the low tones emerge deep Beethoven-like chords which become transformed in the strings, descending clarinet notes make us thing perhaps of Weber, a momentary fragment of sonority that is wrong-footed at once by that instrument’s surreal quarter-tone intonation. This mixture of the familiar and the strange is entirely compelling and deeply rewarding, the passages of unearthly transition landing on climactic plateaux that work in their masterly orchestration and subtle affinities with tonality.

To be sure there are influences at work here, and the great names such as Lutoslawski and Penderecki are shades that exist in the background, but these are no puppet-masters. Mykietyn has his own clarity of vision, and this serves musical and expressive ends. There are ‘modern’ effects, but these are all stunningly communicative in their own ways. The de-tuning of notes is particularly chilling, and the mixture of timbres for instance in the central section (track 3), with muted brass, off-stage clarinet echoes and further along the strange glissando with which the Hammond organ enters all speak of an ear for detail that might have been regarded with admiration by Gustav Mahler.

Features of extended acceleration and deceleration are a feature in Mykietyn’s pieces, and the Concerto for Flute and Orchestra is no exception, the opening minute and a half almost entirely consisting of a repeated note from the soloist that slows down into a tempo into which the orchestra can start to interject. Flute and harp plus subtle bowed percussion create a magical effect, into which darker elements enter – not least a martial sounding side-drum. Repetitions encourage the feeling of a funereal march, and as the flute and the bass clarinet develop a relationship a sense of tonality emerges. Mentioned in the booklet as a ‘chorale stage’ there is little in the way of harmonised melody to be recognised, but there is an underlying tectonic layer over which winds and strings fly and sweep, adding variation forms to the inexorable tread of low tones and soft drumstrokes. Wah-wah mutes give a momentary big-band feel from the brass, this vocal, almost conversational feel also taken up by the solo flute, which begins its own mournful monologue as the orchestra dissolves and regroups. The final minutes take on a new impetus, building to a resolution around that repeated opening flute note over which the spirits of Richard Strauss and Darius Milhaud seem to smile with avuncular warmth.

It’s sometimes easy to become cynical about modern music, but this is one recording that has restored my faith, making me want to go back and hear things again – to fix them in the memory. With excellent performances, a richly detailed and deep recording and a chunky booklet this is a disc well worth acquiring.

Dominy Clements



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