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Adam WESOŁOWSKI (b.1980)
Euphory Concerto [12:00]
Silver Concerto [17:40]
Encore Concerto [22:54]
Industrial Sinfonia [15:29]
Steven Mead (euphonium)
Aleksandra Gajecka Antosiewicz (harpsichord)
Łukasz Długosz (flute)
Silesian Chamber Orchestra/Robert Kabara
AUKSO – Chamber Orchestra of the City of Tychy/Marek Moś
rec. 2019, Henryk Górecki Silesian Philharmonic Hall, Katowice, and Mediateka, Tychy, Poland
DUX 1659 [68:03]

Take your courage in both hands, swallow a hefty dose of vodka (or a strengthening tipple of your own choice) and launch straight into the final track of this CD. If ever music was “in you your face”, this is it. We have a quarter of an hour’s high-octane collective string busy-ness underpinned by great percussive blasts coming from electronic sources (described, bizarrely, as “multimedia”, although so far as I can tell, these media are confined to pre-recorded or sampled sounds) recreating the sound word of an industrial landscape. If Alexander Molosov’s iconic Iron Foundry brought the realism of Soviet-era industrial activity into the concert hall, Adam Wesołowski’s Industrial Sinfonia adds a political point to the picture of industrial activity: post-Soviet Polish workers are far more productive and hard-working. This music is overwhelming in its intensity, awesome in its sonic spectacle, and terrifying in its fiery momentum. But it is also exhilarating and utterly compulsive. No wonder it is the only appearance on this disc of the Chamber Orchestra of the City of Tychy (AUKSO) and conductor Marek Moś; they must have worked themselves into the ground and probably went straight into rehab to recover from the shock.

The Industrial Sinfonia is tacked on, almost as an after-thought, to the end of a programme of three very different concertos performed by three different soloists with the Silesian Chamber Orchestra under conductor Robert Kabara. So far as I can make out, the recordings of the Euphory Concerto and Silver Concerto first appeared a few months ago on the Acte Préable label, much to the befuddlement of my colleague, Richard Hanlon, who reviewed that CD for MWI. The booklet, which is a model of impenetrable and barely decipherable text printed in white on a bright yellow background, does not make any mention of this, and the Acte Préable disc seems to have vanished off the face of the earth.

English brass player Steven Mead takes up the euphonium for the three-movement Euphory Concerto. For those who still labour under the sad delusion that the euphonium is merely a sugary deposit in a brass band, Mead’s mellifluous tone and edge-of-the-seat virtuosity, should shatter such prejudice. Here is a superbly characterful solo instrument brought to life at the hands of a true master. Mead creates an almost vocal tenderness in the broad theme of the first, pastoral-infused movement, cuts a nimble-footed dancing figure in the quasi-African second movement complete with vocalisations and popping mouthpieces, and shows dazzling technique in some giddying rapid articulations in the euphoric final movement.

Two distinct features of Wesołowski’s style are his populist traits (shown in catchy tunes and rather obvious harmonies, alongside dance rhythms of the early 20th century) and his use of non-musical elements, many of which take us back to the musique concrete novelty of the 1920s and 30s. Both sit happily side-by-side in the Silver Concerto which uses the tinkling sound of a harpsichord as well as sampled recordings of dripping water and crackling stone slivers to create an aural picture of the historic silver mine near the town of Tarnowski Góry. A further reference to the mine is the use of melodic fragments centred on the notes AG, the chemical symbol for silver. The net effect is a stimulating (especially in the quick-silver figurations of the “presto” movement) and enjoyable piece of aural imagery, which has the ability to be immediately attractive without calling on the listener to do more than enjoy the sounds offered. Harpsichordist Aleksandra Gajecka Antosiewicz never has to fight with the string orchestra or sampled sounds, for Wesołowski ensures that the harpsichord is always an integral part of the texture and never fully exposed in a solo capacity. The third movement (“Andante armonioso”) is particularly effective in the way that the harpsichord opens it, growling away in its lowest register, before rising up to its tinkling top register, where it is joined by the sampled sounds of water droplets, apparently recorded in the mine itself. The jaunty fourth movement gives greater prominence to the harpsichord, which comes up with some surprisingly aggressive hand clusters as it clatters its way along to the accompaniment of chisels, shovels and shattered shards of silver.

The Encore Concerto is not so much a concerto as a set of five unconnected encore pieces for flute and orchestra which can be played in any sequence. Łukasz Długosz is the hard-working soloist who, in the “Allegro con forza” is called upon to present a vivid showcase of technical feats and virtuoso display without orchestral support. Once again there are those populist elements – lively, jazz-infused dance patterns, pleasant melodies, and undemanding harmonies – along with various percussive effects drawn, not from the instruments, but from the string players themselves.

Marc Rochester

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