Deutsches Streichtrio, Eduard Brunner, Patrick O'Byrne
Try this disc when you're driving in your car. You will get to work energized, perhaps even early. The Deutsches Streichtrio plays the String Trio with taut energy laced with threat and dashed with melancholy. They remind me of the way the Emerson String Quartet plays Bartok. When they tire of hurling chromatic bolts of demi-melody, they lead you through a cavern of vague unease. I listened transfixed. So this is why Penderecki dedicated this piece to them. They know its inner secrets, unlike the Tale Quartet (BIS CD-652), who seem to be on less sure ground, particularly with the staccato opening chords. While the Deutsches Streichtrio speak them boldly, the Tale do so timidly, as if this music requires understatement. Similarly, clarinettist Eduard Brunner's Prelude for Clarinet solo begins less tenuously than Martin Frost's, quickly getting to the point by stating its poetry in 2:34 rather than 3:21. Frost's is still a compelling rendition, but Brunner plays closer to the sinews and bones. His legato of pain at the climax passes by quickly, like when a bullet grazes the skull, while Frost dwells a moment too long. Similarly the Deutsches Streichtrio performs the Quartet for Clarinet and String Trio with keening and dark insinuation. While less spectacular, the Tale does a decent job; however their sound seems distantly miked, so the pp passages lose resonance. While these are the only three works these collections have in common, I would recommend the CPO disc if you want one volume of Penderecki's intense chamber music. Violinist Hans Kalafusz and pianist Patrick O'Byrne play his Sonata for Violin and Piano so well you may see the ghosts of Bartok and Prokofiev. Like the Bartok second Violin Sonata, this piece is a charmingly dissonant work with off-kilter folk melodies.
- Peter Bates (All Music Guide)
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Krzysztof Penderecki Chamber Music
The Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, born in 1933, has occupied himself with chamber music ever since his youth in Cracow and over the course of his compositional career. During his later years he has turned to this genre not only as a form of "rest and recreation" from his major works - his oratorios, operas, symphonies, and instrumental concertos - but also and always as a new challenge, as a test of skill in saying everything that should be said even without a major instrumental or musical outlay. The older he has become, the more attractive this challenge has seemed to him. The following remarks correspond not to the chronological order of the compositions concerned but to their sequence on this compact disc.
String Trio (1990-91)
Penderecki composed the string trio about the same time as Ubu Rex, the opera buffa with which he moved beyond his "romantic phase" and its pervading luxuriant chromaticism before going on to prefer a more antiromantic melody and harmony - a hard, tough music in a new clarity sometimes almost neoclassical in its design. This trio commissioned by the German String Trio and premiered by it in Warsaw and Metz consists of two thematically linked movements. The introduction of the first movement is formed by three chord blocks (Allegro motto) to be played ferociously (ferocej. Each of the three chord blocks is followed by a solo cantilena in the manner of a recitative in which each of the three instruments is allowed to present itself and take on its own special profile: the viola (Andante) is rather on the rhapsodic side, the cello (Allegretto) tends toward playful capriciousness, and the violin (Andante) exhibits great energy. In the main part of the movement turbulent, whirring Vivo sections alternate with two Adagio trios. During the further course of the movement there are clearly audible references back to the chord blocks in the fast parts and to the solo cantilenas in the slow parts. Here it is above all the viola that leaves behind its "chromaric crawl trail." The first Adagio, woven like a spider's web, coneludes in very tender tones, and the second forms the epilogue. In the last measure of this epilogue the viola presents the rhythmic pattern for the immediately following second movement.
This Vivace finale begins in the manner of a fugue. The viola expounds the theme for a total of twenty-eight measures, and then the violin follows. The cello, which only later is allowed to carry out its fugue work, forms a transition to a quieter passage pervaded by sighs. This passage is followed by an massive intensification of hard intonation to be played "at the frog." A Pizzicato episode forms a transition to a new entry of the fugue. What from now on is a modified motoric course of events leads into a conclusion of virtuoso elegance.
Prelude for Clarinet Solo (1987)
Penderecki composed this work for his English composer friend Paul Patterson on the occasion of his fortieth birthday. Its subtle tone-color facets and expressive nuances lend it what almost amounts to the character of a ritual conjuration. Lento sostenuto is the prescribed tempo. As in similar pieces, Penderecki dispenses with bar lines. The composition develops from a single tone, the small g, and also ends on this note. Mournful sequences continue to flow by into cantabile upswings; motion and excitement intensify. What results when the dynamic climax has been reached with a glissando climbing up to b'" flat is almost something on the order of a free jazz atmosphere. Amid gradual calming of the tempo, the descent leads back into the atmosphere of quiet absorption. The lament motifs are heard once more, the single tones: the fading away of the g.
Per Slava for Violoncello solo (1986)
From time to time Penderecki likes to express his gratitude to great instrumental soloists who regularly interpret his concertos with orchestra by dedicating little solo pieces to them. It was thus that he composed this Per Slava for the famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, whom his friends call "Slava." Rostropovieh premiered Penderecki's Second Cello Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1983 and has continued to perform this great, highly expressive work quite often right up until today. Accordingly, Per Slava is also serious, almost romantic expressive music made to order for the cello but for this reason in no way refrains from challenges in the technical sphere. Musical expression and the highest instrumental mastery are required. (For this reason all the participants at the International Rostropovieh Competition in Paris in 1986 had to perform Per Slava as a required piece.)
The little piece begins and ends with lamenting second motifs (Penderecki's favorite interval!) obtained from the tone series b-a-c-h (even if mostly in another order). In this little work Penderecki also does without bar lines in order to render possible a freely flowing recital while calling on the interpreter to take over responsibility for the marking of the given architecture. The lament motif extends out in all sorts of different metamorphoses.
Then the tempo intensifies into Allegretto and Vivace sections - developing playfully, piling up in mighty chords, only then to conclude as a Lento.
Sonata for Violin and Piano (1953)
This sonata represents Penderecki's earliest composition. He completed it immediately prior to his first year of study at the Cracow Music Academy and exhibited a fine sense of sound in his combination of its two instruments. It is not at all a disgraceful embarrassment, and the fact that the first two movements remind us of other composers only attests to his good taste. The first movement is somewhat reminiscent of Prokofiev, and the elegiac middle movement pays homage to the great Bartok. In the exuberant finale the young composer seems above all to have been interested in demonstrating his own capabilities on the violin. Hats off to this compositional debut!
Cadenza per Viola sola (1984)
The viola is one of Penderecki's favorite instruments. It was thus to be expected that he would write a solo concerto for the viola, just as he has done for the other stringed instruments. He composed a viola concerto in 1983 and then wrote the Cadenza one year later. It was performed during his chamber music festival at his country estate in Luslawice by Grigori Shislin. The Cadenza begins in exactly the same manner as the viola concerto, namely with the twofold sighing of the descending minor second (a flat-g) and espressivo in Lento tempo. And it is also with this interval that it concludes. It too is composed without any metrical divisions. In the first part the .chromatic sighing motif is continued with increasing sweep and dynamic intensification as well as with thick chords and impulsive configurations. A brilliant Vivace stands at its center: lively music like the gigue of a Bach solo partita. A ritardando leads back into the Lento from the high point and its tricky motion sequences.