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Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b. 1933)
Concerto doppio for violin, viola and orchestra (2012) [13:42]
Concerto per viola and orchestra (1983)
(arr. guitar Piotr Przedbora, 2018) [21:26]
Concerto grosso no. 2 for 5 clarinets and orchestra (2004) [22:08]
Bartłomiej Nizioł (violin), Katarzyna Budnik-Gałązka (viola, Concerto doppia)
Piotr Przedbora (guitar)
Arkadiusz Adamski, Bartłomiej Dobrowolski, Agata Piątek (clarinets)
Tomasz Żymła (bass clarinet, basset horn), Andrzej Ciepliński (basset horn)
Polska Orkiestra Sinfonia Iuventus/Krzysztof Penderecki,
Maciej Tworek
rec. 2018, Witold Lutoslawski Polish Radio Concert Studio, Warsaw
DUX 1537 [57:08]

The Dux label must by now have the most extensive catalogue of works by Penderecki of any, and there seems to be no end in sight. This collection of three concertos is an intriguing mix, including a new version of the Viola Concerto as arranged for guitar and something for five clarinets and orchestra - it just has to be worth a listen.

Concerto doppio is shaped in a single span but with distinctive sections. The opening has an eloquent, romantic feel, with rhetorical and lyrical melodic material and dialogue for the soloists, building to a more intense and rhythmic section with a melodramatic feel. This is one of those pieces with typically theatrical character, giving the listener the sense of an ongoing narrative, the content of which can be filled in by each individual. The soloists have some finely doloroso lyrical moments, tending to alternate rather than duet, but no particular atmosphere or action remains in place for long, sending us on an energetic ride with added cadenzas.

The Concerto for viola and orchestra can be found in its original form on DUX 1185 (review), and is a work that has been transcribed for instruments including cello, clarinet and saxophone, as well as this version for guitar. As you would expect, the difference between a plucked instrument as opposed to a bowed of even a blown one with their qualities of sustain, creates an entirely different effect, and one which you will have to become accustomed if you know the original. The guitar is recorded quite closely, so the blend of timbre with the orchestra is more one of contrast. The instrument can seem a bit stark during quieter passages, and while it would no doubt be quite quickly overwhelmed in the reality of a concert setting the recording balance and Penderecki’s own tendency to thin out the orchestral textures during solo passages ensures a reliable dialogue between soloist and orchestra. This concerto was written to mark the bicentenary of the birth of South American independence hero Simón Bolivar, and has plenty of darkness and melancholy in its expressive world. The classical guitar is of course strongly associated with South America, so acceptance soon turns to appreciation, certainly of Piotr Przedbora’s technical prowess. There is no triumphalism in this piece, more an atmosphere of lamentation, certainly in the impression left by the final section.

The Concerto Grosso No. 2 for three clarinets, two basset horns and orchestra appears to have remained in storage since its Spanish premiere, so it is good to see it finally reaching a wider audience here. The concerto grosso form immediately makes us think of Baroque examples, and while this is by no means a pastiche there are certainly some ‘antique’ references in the opening clarinet ensemble and elsewhere. Penderecki’s inclination towards romanticism is also very much in evidence, so the combination of tutti/ripieno interaction, moments of counterpoint and sections of quasi-Wagnerian music-drama make for something rich and unusual. The clarinet ensemble playing here is to be complimented on its intonation, with several passages of unisono playing and moments of complexity and in high register, all of which ring out with transparent clarity. The recorded balance also deserves comment. It must have been tricky to create a realistic perspective, but everything sounds convincingly natural.

Penderecki’s ability in communicating directly in his music, without compromising the now finely-honed post-Romantic/expressionist idiom he has adopted since his avant-garde earlier years, is well represented in this interesting programme. One might be hard pressed to point to particular stand-out highlights, but each work has its own identity and sense of purpose, and each will reward repeated hearing. It’s a shame there’s a misprint on the sleeve that means we can’t tell which conductor is conducting which work, but that’s the only real criticism I have. With fine performances and excellent recording quality, this is one to add to your Penderecki shelf.

Dominy Clements

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