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Contemporary Music from Gdańsk - Volume 2
Andrzej DZIADEK (b.1957)
Pomerania (2014) [10:47]
Tadeusz DIXA (b.1983)
Ballade for Violin and Chamber Orchestra (2016) [7:50]
Sławomir ZAMUSZKO (b.1973)
Sinfonietta (2016) [9:10]
Krzysztof OLCZAK (b.1956)
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (2014) [18:10]
Karolina Piątkowska-Nowicka (violin)
Łukasz Długosz (flute)
Sinfonietta Pomerania/Tadeusz Dixa
rec. 2016/17, Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music Recording Studio, Gdańsk
DUX 1429 [45:57]

This is Volume 2 in the Polish Dux label’s ‘Contemporary Music from Gdańsk’ series. The first volume, which I reviewed a couple of years ago, left a positive impression. Each of the four works in this latest offering is a single movement score, and three of the composers here also featured in the previous release, with the addition of the newcomer Sławomir Zamuszko.

Pomerania is a fitting title for the opening piece by Andrzej Dziadek. It alludes to the orchestral ensemble who perform the works on this disc. It was written for their inaugural concert on 16 January 2014. Dziadek and the conductor Tadeusz Dixa were the brains behind the ensemble, made up of young musicians and specializing in contemporary music. The work is inspired by images of the sea and conjures up vast open spaces endlessly stretching in all directions towards the horizon. Superimposed on a background wash are undulating melodic contours depicting waves. Dziadek harnesses a panoply of percussion, including vibraphone and piano to paint a kaleidoscopic canvas. Despite an overall calm, the music speaks of the sea's mighty power with awesome reverence.

Tadeusz Dixa’s ‘Ballade for Violin and Chamber Orchestra’ is a miniature concerto just short of eight minutes long. Karolina Piątkowska-Nowicka, the orchestra’s leader, takes the solo part; she also gave the premiere in November 2016. After a short lyrical opening fervently sung on the violin, the music becomes more animated and neo-classically angular. A fleeting, melodically elegiac section intervenes before the music takes off again with spiky energy. Next is a cadenza, before Dixa winds everything up with an impressive orchestral flourish.

The general flavour of Sławomir Zamuszko’s ‘Sinfonietta’ of 2106 is sanguine and upbeat. This one-movement score is a modest reinterpretation of the symphony, scaled down to accommodate the chamber-sized orchestral forces. I am immediately provoked by the brilliant scoring and the dazzling array of colour achieved. Zamuszko enlists claves, bells, vibraphone and marimba to add tints and hues. The treatment of instruments mimics an orchestral concerto. The music rides peaks and troughs, with a ‘leitmotif’ constantly recurring.

At 18 minutes, Krzysztof Olczak’s ‘Flute Concerto’ is the most substantial work. It was dedicated to the Gdańsk-based flautist Dorota Pawlus who gave the first performance on 8 November 2014. Łukasz Długosz is the soloist on this recording, and a fine job he does. The composer calls for three different transverse flutes – concert flute in C, alto and piccolo. These are alternated throughout the piece. He also asks for such technical devices as glissandi, frullati, slap tongue, air blowing and vocalisations. Olczak is a composer of wide ranging imagination and ingenuity with a deft handling of instrumentation. The result is a ravishing sonic spectacle. Długosz’s impressive technique and consummate musicianship pay rich dividends. You’re in for a treat!

At 46 minutes, the playing time is rather parsimonious. I’m sure Dux could have squeezed one more work in. Yet, what we have, I enjoyed immensely. Both the performances and the sound quality cannot be faulted. The beautifully produced booklet notes are in Polish and English.

Stephen Greenbank


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