About this Recording
8.573500 - MEYER, K.: Instrumental Music - Canzona / Imaginary Variations / Moment Musical / Misterioso / Piano Trio (Poznań Piano Trio)

Krzysztof Meyer (b. 1943)
Piano Trio, Op. 50 • Canzona, Op. 56 • Imaginary Variations, Op. 114 • Moment musical • Misterioso, Op. 83


The Polish composer, pianist and writer Krzysztof Meyer was born in Kraków in 1943, and studied with Stanisław Wiechowicz (1893–1963) and Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933) in his home city before taking lessons from Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He taught at the Kraków Academy from 1965–87, before moving to Cologne to lecture in composition at the Hochschule für Musik. A prolific composer, he has written fourteen string quartets, eight symphonies, fourteen solo concertos and stage works (including the opera Cyberiada, 1970), as well as numerous other chamber, orchestral and vocal pieces. Whilst his earlier works are full of unconventional timbres and textures, typical of the 1960s Polish avant-garde, his later compositions explore more traditional expressive and dramatic approaches. Although this music is not written in a tonal idiom, it nevertheless carries great emotional content.

The pieces featured on this recording were all composed between 1976 and 2010, for various combinations of piano, violin and cello. These include three miniatures: the lyrical Canzona, an atmospheric Misterioso, and a virtuosic solo cello work, Moment musical. The Piano Trio and Imaginary Variations are more substantial pieces, for three and two players respectively, and in each case Meyer makes an extensive exploration of the ways in which the musicians interact, and share and develop material.

Of Meyer’s Canzona per violoncello e pianoforte, Op. 56, written in December 1981, the composer explained that “the primary inspiration for the work was my fascination with the playing style of a great cellist, David Geringas, who asked me to compose a small work for him and his wife, where the melody would play the main role.” Geringas and his wife, Tania Schatz, gave the first performance of the Canzona in Cologne on 1 November 1982. Both the long-breathed, lyrical theme and the energetic rhythms which come to the fore later in the work, bear traces of Shostakovich’s influence. By contrast, the Moment musical requires bravura cello playing of the first order. It was written for Polish virtuoso Roman Jabłoński in 1976, for use as an encore piece, and was premiered in West Berlin on 28 January 1982. In particular, Meyer gives prominence to extended pizzicato sections in this piece, including plucked chords from which the player is required to glissando upwards. The final miniature featured here, Misterioso for violin and piano, Op. 83, was commissioned as a set work for all participants of the 2nd International Joseph Joachim Violin Competition in Hannover, in 1994. However, the work is designed not as a showcase for technical ability, but rather a test of sensitive shaping of the material. The violinist must maintain singing melodies in both one and two parts; and substantial sections of the work consist of delicate, sustained lines of harmonics.

The most recent work to feature here is Imaginary Variations, Op. 114, written in 2010. Meyer explains: “this composition is structured in a similar way to Classical variation form, and the audience can hear the constant changes to the musical ideas. In reality, however, the twelve short sections of the work are not true variations, even though they display some connections and similarities.” The Variations do not, in fact, have a theme—but the striking intervallic patterns of the opening few bars do reappear from time to time throughout the work. Piano and violin interact via a rich variety of textures: imitation, layering of lines, rhythmic interplay, and each player accompanying the other. The piece was commissioned by the American violinist Janet Packer, who performed it for the first time in Chicago in 2011, accompanied by Geoffrey Burleson.

Finally, the Piano Trio, Op. 50, completed thirty years earlier (premiered in Wrocław on 16 April, 1985 by Tadeusz Gadzina, Marian Wasiółka and Jerzy Łukowicz), makes use of a rather different compositional approach. A small number of central motifs, each short and easily recognisable, are stated and repeated throughout the piece at significant structural points. The most identifiable of these is the opening fanfare of four chords, which reappears many times over the course of the work, either as an exact repeat or in modified form.

The work opens with a fiery impetuoso, in which all instruments play rapid passages either in unison or layered counterpoint, occasionally restating the opening fanfare. Certain intervals (a rising fourth, a minor second and a perfect fifth) and a strongly rhythmic triplet pattern, also feature as recurring ideas. This is followed by an extensive Adagio inquieto, made particularly unsettling through use of rapid string tremolos. The tonal centre of this movement is C, a pitch from which the music struggles to escape, and emphasised by massive, bell-like chords in the piano, dominated by the pitch. This tonal stasis is set against the fluttering string tremolos, and occasional rapid outbursts from the piano. A change of pace—and pitch—is finally offered by the Allegretto capriccioso, which opens with light, fleeting pizzicato exchanges between the players. There is also a particularly effective passage towards the end of the movement, in which the violin and cello provide alternate harmonic notes to constitute a high, glassy melody. The music then builds to a climax which leads to the Cantabile e furioso—a kind of bizarre capriccio in rondo form, featuring a recurring pattern of contrary motion piano arpeggios. The final movement, Con moto, is an extended passacaglia, and closely linked to the Adagio inquieto. As with the Adagio, the tonal centre is C, and the movement opens with a variant of the cello theme of the Adagio, which provides the bass line for the variations. The movement is structured in a succession of long musical arches into a kind of funeral march, which gives way to a brief recapitulation of ideas from across the entire work. The four, fanfare-like chords with which the Trio began make a final appearance at its conclusion, a ghostly echo in the piano.

Danuta Gwizdalanka

Edited by Katy Hamilton

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