About this Recording
8.572482 - PENDERECKI, K.: Fonogrammi / Horn Concerto / Partita / The Awakening of Jacob / Anaklasis / De natura sonoris No. 1 (Warsaw Philharmonic, Wit)

Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933)
Fonogrammi • The Awakening of Jacob • Anaklasis • De natura sonoris • Partita • Horn Concerto


Kryzsztof Penderecki was born in Dubica, a small town between Kraków and L’vov, and studied at Kraków’s Academy of Music and Jagiellonian University. He first established himself at the Warsaw Autumn Festivals of 1959 and 1960. Quickly becoming part of the European avant-garde, he achieved fame with Threnody [Naxos 8.554491] in which he imparted a keen expressivity to his then ‘sonorist’ musical language. The St Luke Passion [8.557149] proved how successful this idiom could be in sacred music and he has continued to be inspired directly by such timeless religious themes, as is witnessed by his cantatas, oratorios and operas.

During the mid-1970s this involvement with tradition became deeper, Penderecki entering into dialogue with music that he ‘rediscovered’ for himself. He internalised the post-Romantic tradition and combined it with the technical hallmarks of his earlier music. Major works written in this new style include Concertos for Violin [8.555265], Cello and Viola [both 8.572211], the Second Symphony [8.554492], the opera Paradise Lost, the Te Deum [8.557980] and A Polish Requiem [8.557386/7]. Further formal and stylistic investigation led to the synthesis of the modern with the traditional. This inspired operas of stylistic diversity as the expressionist Black Mask and the post-modern Ubu Rex. Compositions drawing on this new aesthetic included Symphonies Nos. 3, 4 and 5 [the latter on 8.554567] and the oratorios Seven Gates of Jerusalem [8.557766] and Credo [8.572032], all of them being associated with both an acute expression and a refined array of technical means.

The present disc collates six orchestral works that between them extend over a period of almost half a century. First performed in Venice on 24 April 1961 by Stanislaw Marona with the Kraków Chamber Orchestra and Andrzej Markowski, Fonogrammi (1961) is a concertante piece of the kind that featured prominently in Penderecki’s output over the next decade. Percussion makes way for a piquant harpsichord solo and then pulsating strings that erupt in forceful glissandos. Harpsichord and flute presently combine with strings in a hectic passage that culminates in cymbal clashes, the flute having a brief solo before elaborate percussive interplay brings back the strings for a short outburst. The flute resumes now its pensive discourse to close the work unaccompanied.

Dedicated to Prince Rainier III of Monaco on the 25th anniversary of his accession, The Awakening of Jacob (1974) was first given in Monte Carlo on 14 August 1974, Stanisław Skrowaczewski conducting the National Opera Orchestra of Monte Carlo. Despite its modest length, it is a crucial work in Penderecki’s output through anticipating the overtly neo-Romantic approach he soon adopted and which was to hold good over the next decade. Glowering brass chords are gradually joined by percussion, before sighing gestures from the woodwind and strings see expressive tension build incrementally. Strings take the lead for a central section which more rapidly accrues intensity as it reaches a rhetorically sustained climax across full orchestra. This is then dissipated as strings subside into a return of the initial music, which ends with softly resonating wind chords.

Anaklasis (1960) caused something of a sensation at the Donaueschingen Festival where it was first heard on 16 October 1960 with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra directed by Hans Rosbaud. While the scoring for strings and percussion was hardly new, the sheer immediacy with which these are juxtaposed gave notice of a striking individuality. Quiet discords alternate with brusque gestures, unfolding as a series of discreetly interconnected episodes for strings into which percussion gradually insinuates itself before taking over in a barrage of sound that, after an interlude for cymbals, builds to a vigorous climax. Tuned percussion comes to the fore for an evocative interlude where solo strings are gradually reintroduced, the latter then returning in force for a dissonant outburst which ascends to the heights and with sparse percussive gestures providing a brief coda.

When it was first performed in Royan on 7 April 1966, with Andrzej Markowski conducting the French Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, De natura sonoris I (1966) took listeners by surprise with its prevailing rhythmic incisiveness as well as an improvisatory freedom that suggested the influence of modern jazz: qualities which were to emerge in several more of Penderecki’s orchestral and instrumental works over the following decade. Stark gestures from upper woodwind then brass are set against an emerging discord on strings that is cut short by percussion, lower woodwind then bells presaging a climax with rapidly accelerating strings and brass. This is cut short for the static central section in which woodwind, brass and strings intone a sequence of gradually crescendoing chords, at length erupting in an aggressive climax with brass and percussion to the fore. Over a pizzicato ‘walking bass’, woodwind and brass assemble a variety of gestures before, after another brief climax, alighting on a single chord from which a whole host of timbres are drawn. Ricocheting strings and fluttering woodwind mark a return to the earlier activity, leading to a hectic coda in which surging strings and glowering brass combine with the initial woodwind gestures as the music surges upwards prior to its peremptory close.

Many similar traits are to be found in Partita (1971), which had its first hearing in Rochester on 11 February 1972—with the harpsichordist Felicja Blumental and Walter Hendl conducting the Eastman School of Music Philharmonia—and which also has notable rôles for electric and bass guitars, harp and double bass. Unison string chords fan out rhythmically and dynamically in a diverse textural interplay, the harpsichord entering with a welter of chordal activity that interlocks with guitars, strings and brass as a more propulsive section is launched. This soon fragments to leave isolated exchanges from woodwind and percussion, marching strings and resonating percussion being joined by harpsichord in an intricate passage that gives full rein to colliding textures from strings and brass. Just past the halfway mark, ringing percussion and pizzicato strings make way for a climax in which furious activity from the harpsichord is complemented by that from the main orchestral sections. Strings now take the lead with a vivid outburst that ushers in the marching motion and a climax that brings the full forces into play, the febrile activity subsiding into fragmentary harpsichord gestures before icy crescendos on upper strings and woodwind gradually fade out against heaving chords from the double bass.

First performed in Bremen on 5 May 2008 with Radovan Vlatkovic and the composer conducting the Bremen Philharmonic, the Horn Concerto (2008) is stylistically representative of Penderecki’s most recent music, its sub-title ‘Winterreise’ indicative of the evocative orchestral soundscape through which the soloist ventures. Over glacial lower strings, brass then woodwind and upper strings erect an arresting backdrop as the soloist makes its first appearance. Sudden forceful chords launch greater activity from the soloist as a restless mood takes hold of the orchestra, leavening out for a spirited dialogue in which the soloist is partnered by a variety of instruments as a more expressive mood is established. This culminates in a violent orchestral response, the music heading forward with determined activity from the strings that alternates with a more lilting manner, which in turn passes through a breezy episode for woodwind and percussion before a haunting passage in which the soloist emerges poetically over strings and timpani. This opens out before a brief dialogue with clarinet sees the soloist set off over marching strings and brass to a brief climax, relaxing into a wistful soliloquy against wind and strings. It hardly prepares, even so, for a coda that wraps up the piece in notably decisive terms.

Richard Whitehouse

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