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Andrzej DZIADEK (b. 1957)
Orchestral Works - Volume 2
Poem, for orchestra (1987) [12:25]
Violin Concerto (1992-1993) [19:14]
Symphony No 2, ‘Te Deum’, for chorus and orchestra (2000-2002) [20:05]
Krzysztof Bąkowski (violin)
Polish Radio Choir, Cracow/Marek Kluza
National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice/Krzysztof Dziewięcki (Poem), Jarosław Lipke (Concerto), Stanisław Macura (Symphony)
rec. May 1990 (Poem), January 1995 (Concert, Concert Hall of the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Katowice, Poland; October 2002 at the Upper Silesian Cultural Centre, Katowice, Poland (Symphony)
DUX 1666 [51:45]

Stephen Greenbank welcomed the first volume of this nascent Dziadek series back in 2019 (review); like its predecessor the sequel offers a concerto, a work for chorus with orchestra and one for chorus alone. Another similarity is that the performances here were also laid down by Polish Radio between twenty and thirty years ago – I am speculating but it looks like Dux have belatedly recognised Dziadek’s stature at some point around the composer’s 60th birthday and issued these anthologies accordingly – in any case the sound is full and fine, and unlike some previous discs from this source, broadly consistent despite the various recording dates and locations.

Dziadek writes in an accessible, powerful neo-romantic vein. I do not suppose I will be the only listener who finds all of this music identifiably ‘Polish’; the ‘mature’ work of Penderecki might be considered a yardstick although in my view there is something a little more ‘authentic’ about Dziadek in the sense that he doesn’t appear to have endured some stylistic ‘mid-life crisis’ and completely re-invented himself. I can confirm that the three works here occupy a similar aesthetic terrain to the three that appeared on Volume 1. There is nothing here which is staggeringly novel or life-changing, but every note fits and each work is finely crafted, seamless in its logic and virile in its effect. The solo writing in the concerto is fluent and expert, likewise the choral material in the symphony.

The orchestral Poem which opens the disc is by now thirty-four years old. It was sufficiently liked by the panel of judges at the Polish Composers’ Union’s young composers competition in 1987 for it to win the first prize; it might have seemed more unusual or original to those experts at that point than it may do to an informed listener in 2021. A gaunt opening involving low cellos and basses over which high sustained violins are suspended suggests both space and murk simultaneously. There is a tenebroso quality to the texture which in due course is neatly obliterated by a bucolic flute tune and a grand orchestral sweep. The solo instrumental writing which follows is most elegant although the effect as a whole seems indecisive and meandering; not so the quicker, more purposeful section to which that episode yields, driven along as it is by a propulsive figure in strings and percussion which wavers between the martial (timpani) and the beatific (tubular bells). This is befitting of a piece which seems emotionally ambiguous throughout. Dziadek’s orchestral writing is darkly attractive though – the strange harmonies in the woodwinds from around 10:00 make their mark. The final peroration is abrupt and unexpected. This 1990 recording under Krzysztof Dziewięcki oozes discipline and commitment from the players of what is described as the ‘National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice’ on the disc’s cover, and various different iterations of this moniker inside the booklet.

Dziadek completed his Violin Concerto in 1993; the sweet-toned fiddle of Krzysztof Bąkowski commences proceedings with a melancholy theme which stops short of tragedy, this is mirrored in the full orchestra and the idea is developed rather conventionally. In fact this initial episode informs everything that follows, with the soloist tending to lead the argument throughout prior to an orchestral response and/or commentary. If this kind of metamorphosis-like approach seems formulaic and predictable on paper, it actually lends a sense of dignity and rigour to the actual sound which is most agreeable. From around the 7:50 mark a mini-cadenza hints at more rapid content – this is threatened and briefly materialises but it’s not sustained. Instead the core of the work seems heartfelt and impassioned, a feeling that’s reinforced by the blazing contributions of solo brass. Dziadek’s tactful yet varied percussion writing lends colour and depth throughout the second half of the concerto. The winds at 15:00 even suggest a whiff of Szymanowskian exoticism in a passage which builds to climax worthy of that master. Bąkowski projects the measured cadenza which follows with immaculate care until the hushed orchestra returns for the concerto’s shimmering denouement. Two quiet pizzicato notes in the basses conclude proceedings unexpectedly in another, possibly deliberate nod to Szymanowski. It’s impossible to quibble with the engagement of either soloist or orchestra, or indeed the Dux engineers’ impeccable remastering of the original Polish Radio tape.

Seven years after finishing the concerto, Dziadek was commissioned to produce a purely choral Te Deum for the Silesian chapter of the Polish Union of Choirs and Orchestras. After its successful premiere in 2000, the composer chose to develop the piece; he orchestrated the hymn and created an extended orchestral introduction. The result was his Symphony No 2; notwithstanding its rather awkward genesis, it proves to be a coherent and dramatic if rather gloomy work. It seems to have been recorded at a somewhat higher level than the two couplings and listeners may wish to alter their volume dials accordingly. The opening melody is austere and assured –it certainly defies indifference. For a Te Deum one might expect something a little more optimistic, but the gravity conveyed is far from unattractive and projects directness and power. It builds inexorably; as Joanna Schiller-Rydzewska suggests in her note Dziadek seems to be aiming for Brucknerian momentum and grandeur. The entry of what sounds like a huge choir at 8:32 is quite overwhelming. The massive choral climaxes are effectively realised in the recording. The singers’ diction is outstanding – the Polish Radio Choir (Cracow) were obviously prepared rigorously for this performance by their director Marek Kluza. The spoken episode from 14:50 is rather portentous and impossible to imagine without the example of Penderecki. Although Dziadek’s Symphony No 2 offers today’s listeners a timely opportunity for sombre reflection, I would hardly describe it as affirmative or consoling, although it is undoubtedly impressive as a musical experience. It is splendidly realised by Stanislav Macura and his huge forces.

There are many aficionados of modern Polish music who will snap up this disc regardless of my caveats – nor will they be disappointed. For my part I most enjoyed Dziadek’s Violin Concerto; even if his style owes much to what has gone before it is hard not to be impressed by the rigour of the writing, the attractiveness of the content and the inevitability of its form. It is the one piece here to which I shall certainly return. On the other hand, whilst the Poem and the Symphony No 2 are far from dull, I did find them a tad formulaic. It would certainly be interesting to discover how Dziadek’s style has evolved since 2002; one hopes that Dux may extend this series of discs with some up-to-date examples of his art. Their documentation for the current issue is adequate but reveals little that seasoned listeners will not be able to work out for themselves. Consequently it’s something of a qualified welcome from me.

Richard Hanlon

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