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MusicWeb International, May 2013

PENDERECKI, K.: Piano Concerto, “Resurrection” / Flute Concerto (B. Douglas, Dlugosz, Warsaw Philharmonic, Wit) 8.572696
PENDERECKI, K.: Fonogrammi / Horn Concerto / Partita / The Awakening of Jacob / Anaklasis / De natura sonoris No. 1 (Warsaw Philharmonic, Wit) 8.572482
PENDERECKI, K.: Sinfonietta Nos. 1 and 2 / Capriccio / 3 Pieces in Old Style / Serenade (Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, Wit) 8.572212

The latest addition is a disc showcasing two of the composer’s finest concertos, the ten-movement Resurrection for piano and the more intimately scored one for flute. With the inimitable Barry Douglas at the keyboard…in the first and young Polish flautist Lukasz Dlugosz in the second, on paper these already look safe bets, especially with Antoni Wit directing his rarely unimpressive Warsaw Philharmonic. In practice, these works are masterpieces. The earthy, minatory Piano Concerto is one of the most exciting places to begin an exploration of Penderecki’s music, although the Flute Concerto is arguably more accessible, being altogether gentler and, given Penderecki’s earlier reputation, surprisingly tonal.

…no one can criticise the standard of music-making on any of the three releases. Besides Douglas and Dlugosz there are stand-out individual performances from Urszula Janik, Jennifer Montone and Jean-Louis Capezzali. Above all, Wit and the WPO, totally at home in this uncompromising repertoire, combine to produce a series of outstanding performances, technically and expressively comparable to, sometimes even surpassing, those of Penderecki himself conducting different orchestras on EMI Classics and DUX. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Hurwitz, February 2013

…any of Antoni Wit’s Penderecki recordings for Naxos deserves recognition: they are uniformly superb.

Fonogrammi, Anaklasis, Partita, and De natura sonoris I consist almost entirely of noise—often wonderful, imaginative noise…

The Awakening of Jacob shows the composer on his way to the “romantic revival” of his later work, while the Horn Concerto of 2008 is drop-dead gorgeous…get this stunningly played and recorded disc, as well as the others in this important and worthy series. © Read complete review

James A. Altena
Fanfare, November 2012

The Fonogrammi for flute and orchestra from 1961 is one of the composer’s earliest works. Various capacities of that instrument, such as the use of chiff and of breathy attacks on notes, are employed, with intrusions by shimmering percussion instruments (chimes, bells, and glockenspiel)…

The Awakening of Jacob from 1974 comes from the cusp of the composer’s controversial turn back to a more traditional, tonal compositional idiom. Nightmarish sustained chords are repeatedly growled out on the lower brass, eventually followed by an entrance of skitterish strings, followed by string glissandi and piercing cries on the woodwinds. An agitated tumult on the strings begins about halfway through the work’s nine-minute duration, and then gradually dies away, yielding back to glowering low brass chords overlaid with wispy sounds from ocarinas.

The Horn Concerto is among the strongest of Penderecki’s most recent works and eminently deserves to win a place in that instrument’s standard repertoire…Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic do a virtuoso turn in performing music of intractable complexity and difficulty. The three main soloists likewise all play splendidly, with Jennifer Montone…deserving special recognition for her gorgeous tone and seamless legato. If you are a fan of either Penderecki’s earlier oeuvre or of horn concertos, you will want to add this release to your collection. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Leslie Wright
MusicWeb International, September 2012

Antoni Wit and the musicians of the Warsaw Philharmonic continue to do yeoman service to Penderecki with this volume spanning the composer’s career with the greater emphasis placed on his earlier works. If you are new to Penderecki’s music, the Horn Concerto is as good a place to start as any. Jennifer Montone’s performance is excellent…both as to performance and recording, the works presented here sound wonderful.

The rest of the disc for the most part belongs to Penderecki’s earlier period where he first established his reputation. I remember very well hearing the Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, the piece for which Penderecki was best known, and it completely blew me away. I still find it and the earlier works on this CD pretty amazing. The Awakening of Jacob…begins with the lower brass with percussive rumblings underneath and sounds for all the world like something out of a science fiction or horror film until it develops into something more profound. It leaves a lasting impression with the richness of its sonorities.

Of all the pieces on this disc…De natura sonoris I is likely to be the one I will return to most often. It really epitomizes what Penderecki was attempting to achieve in the Sixties with its shrieking high strings, volleys of percussion, and siren-like glissandos.

Having listened to all these works several times through, I am left with one basic thought: I find something new in all the earlier pieces every time I hear them, while the Horn Concerto basically told me everything the first time round. That said, it is a fine addition to the rather limited horn concerto repertoire and deserves continued exposure. The other works, however, demand attention and should be included more frequently on concert programs. I urge you to hear them especially as well played and recorded as they are here. Antoni Wit continues to astonish with the breadth of his repertoire and here he is on home turf. © 2012 MusicWeb International

David Olds
The WholeNote, August 2012

Fonogrammi/Horn Concerto/Partita…includes Fonogrammi for flute and chamber orchestra, Anaklasis for string orchestra and percussion and De natura sonoris I for orchestra, all from the 1960s, with several works from the 70s and the much more recent Horn Concerto “Winterreise”(2009). With a variety of soloists the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Anthony Wit provide definitive performances. © 2012 The WholeNote Read complete review

Daniel Coombs
Audiophile Audition, August 2012

This very fine collection of works with the world class Warsaw Philharmonic showcases some of the master’s smaller scale orchestral pieces but, particularly, those in which he rediscovered or explored older and more traditional classical forms. Each piece is very well played and rewarding to listen to.

For example, Fonogrammi for flute and chamber orchestra, dates from 1961 is actually a modern take on the concertante format. Both a solo flute and the harpsichord interact with each other but in dialogue with the orchestra in a very dramatic way, featuring outbursts from the strings and percussion. Clearly this style is a bit “early” Penderecki but this is a vibrant representation of one of the composer earliest uses of an earlier form. Soloist Urszula Janik handles the appreciable demands of the flute part quite well.

The Awakening of Jacob, composed in 1974 for the Prince of Monaco, is one of the first examples of Penderecki’s “new” more Romantic style. The ominous beginning is nearly programmatic in its symbolism of the Biblical story and the ensuing brass chords, string rumblings and wind resonances are all quite moody but very tonal—an approach that would characterize much of Penderecki’s writing for the next twenty years.

Anaklasis for strings and percussion and De natura sonoris I for orchestra both emanate from the 1960s and can be listened to as an emblematic pair. Anaklasis was striking in its use of percussion in a very prominent way. De natura sonoris takes similar sonorities and allows the percussion to behave in a decidedly more rhythmic way, echoing some improvisation aspects that may have come from the growing popularity of jazz. Heard as a pair, these works suggest the composer’s growing fascination with percussion as an integral orchestral timbre.

The trends established in De natura sonoris are furthered in the Partita from 1971. This incredibly unusual work features a solo harpsichord but also some very prominent electric guitar and bass guitar parts. Structurally, this work has some stylistic lineage in common with Fonogrammi  in its creation of a dramatic, also Stravinsky-like, sound in a chamber concerto format. Partita contains startling rhythmic pulsations from the strings that eventually lead to a furious harpsichord part combined with the intrusion of the very unique guitar sounds. Soloist Elżbieta Stefanska a well known Polish harpsichordist is up to the task and this should be considered one of the composer’s most important works.

This fascinating and valuable collection concludes with the Horn Concerto from 2008, clearly the most recent work represented as well. This wonderful and compact work is easily the most “Romantic” of the works represented here and in some ways shows what may be the next step in the ideology of Penderecki well past Threnody, past the Awakening of Jacob and even past some of his big later choral works, like the ‘Polish’ Requiem. There are moments in this piece that actually conjure up Schumann, Wagner or Barber and may cause the listener to double check who they are listening to. Soloist Jennifer Montone, principal horn with the Philadelphia Orchestra, plays very well. I believe this piece should be performed by horn players with increasingly frequency.

This disc is an essential addition to any Penderecki collection and is an important listening experience to get to know more about one of this past century’s most important composers. The Warsaw Philharmonic under conductor Antoni Wit gives strong, dedicated performances throughout. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Paul Corfield Godfrey
MusicWeb International, August 2012

…all the tracks on this disc have been recorded by Penderecki himself…It must be said that the performances of the earlier pieces here are better recorded and generally better played…Only in his recording of Anaklasis…were the LSO instrumentalists likely to be readily accustomed to the demands of modern music.

The earliest works here—Fonogrammi, Anaklasis and De natura sonoris I—are all very much pieces of their time. The persistent string glissandi, the rhythmic irruptions, the clusters of harmonies and so on, are nevertheless given full measure by the players here. They seem positively to revel in their opportunities. These performances suffer nothing by comparison with the composer’s own, and they are much better played and recorded.

The slightly later Partita is described on the back of the CD as “rev. 1991”…The smaller solo roles for electric guitar, bass guitar, harp and double bass are taken by Michał Pindakiewicz, Konrad Kubicki, Barbara Witowska and Jerzy Cembryński respectively. In Penderecki’s recording these roles were not thought significant enough to credit the players individually but the players here justify their billing.

The Horn Concerto is quite another matter. Jennifer Montone has nothing to fear by comparison with her more illustrious predecessor. The opening of the work comes as quite a shock, and something of a relief, after the persistently experimental writing of the other pieces. It is a rather likeable piece, with even some Shostakovich-like humorous galumphing about at 10.57. The orchestral support is splendid, including superbly delicate pianissimo piccolo touches at 13.54 and 16.51.

It is good that Wit’s comprehensive survey of Penderecki’s output is extending to works that have already been recorded by the composer himself and they need fear nothing from their competition. This is not music that allows for a great deal of variety in interpretation, but the recorded sound for Naxos is much superior and more analytical than EMI’s in their 1960s and 1970s recordings, good though that was for its time. The increased clarity benefits the music. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, July 2012

The impressive ongoing Naxos traversal of the music of Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki (b 1933) is now close to hitting the twenty unit mark. Each and every title, including this one, can’t be recommended strongly enough. Wonderful works, impressive interpretations, reference recordings, magnificent musicianship, etc … Plus it seems that every release on Naxos featuring the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Antoni Wit, regardless of the composer, turns out to be a sonic splendour.

This new collection spans 50 years of Penderecki’s creative output, and makes for a varied and fascinating program. Highlights include a hair-raising performance of The Awakening of Jacob. An orchestral piece so intense as to elicit fright and become almost terrifying. The Partita for Harpsichord, Electric Guitar, Bass Guitar, Harp, Double bass and Orchestra is so ingeniously scored that its unusual menagerie of instruments never sounds like what you would expect, but rather becomes an integral part of this work’s textural sonic construct. A feast for the ears. Hats off to Elzbieta Stefanska, Michal Pindakiewicz, Konrad Kubicki, Barbara Witkowska and Jerzy Cembrzynski for their indispensable instrumental contributions to the overall mesmerizing effect of this piece. And I guess it’s safe to say that the future of music looks bright when the twenty-first century can spawn as inventive and enthralling an orchestral work as the Horn Concerto ‘Winterreise’. Rich in melody and technical demands, it merges the soloist’s evocative lines with great orchestral tuttis to dazzling effect. Its elevated neo-romanticism would have you believe it was written in 1908 rather than 2008. Jennifer Montone handles the horn’s long lyrical lines very well and holds her own within the few heavy climactic moments. People who think good concertos are a thing of the past, have yet to hear this one. It contains all the earmarks of a great concerto, including a bravura finish.

If you already have some of these Naxos/Penderecki CDs in your collection, I strongly recommend you add this one to it. If you don’t, this one is as good a place to start as any, but don’t stop there. This is a series of recordings that define the 20th century’s musical landscape, and then some. Explore! © 2012 Classical Music Sentinel Read complete review

Rayond S. Tuttle
International Record Review, July 2012

if you don’t try the Horn Concerto, you are missing out! © 2012 International Record Review, June 2012

The new, very well-performed Naxos CD of Penderecki’s music…includes pieces showing the composer’s compositional skill in areas other than the strictly orchestral. Fonogrammi is for flute and orchestra, and it allows the soloist both the intimacy and delicacy of which the flute is capableAnaklasis, for string orchestra and percussion, is a work with a highly modernistic sound, filled with sonic patterns superimposed on each other. And Penderecki did not hesitate to employ unusual instrumental combinations in some of his works, as in his Partita for harpsichord, electric and bass guitars, harp, double bass and orchestra—a fascinating piece in which the sonorities of the past, of jazz and even of rock-and-roll appear in juxtaposition within a loosely construed version of a very old musical form indeed, paying tribute not only to composers of earlier generations but also to ones of earlier centuries. © 2012 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2012

Works from both sides of the great divide in the musical life of the Polish composer, Krzysztof Penderecki. It was in the mid-1970’s that the darling of the avant-garde fraternity quite suddenly put behind him the naked atonality that had dominated his works and moved towards a style now conveniently called ‘neo-Romantic’. Where Fonogrammi and Anaklasis from the 1960’s would have taken him we will never know, but I think that the vast majority of concert audiences, even in future generations, will still struggle to come to terms with them. Yet there were sounds created that titillate those ears that remain open to new sounds, particularly in the quite moments of Fonogrammi, a score for flute and chamber orchestra played by the Warsaw orchestra’s remarkable principal flute, Urszula Janik. It is in the Partita from 1971 that we detect something happening to his music, the scoring for harpsichord, electric guitar, bass guitar, harp, double bass and strings bringing richly textured qualities. The transformation is complete in the Horn Concerto from 2008, the soloist given a lyric role often set against a busy backdrop, the work a continuation of the Strauss second horn concerto. The outstanding soloist is Jennifer Montone, principal horn of the Philadelphia orchestra, and together with the Warsaw Philharmonic’s splendid playing, this work alone would commend the price of the disc. The composer could certainly not entrust his music to a more dedicated conductor than his one-time pupil, Antoni Wit. Naxos’s whole Penderecki series is a recording landmark. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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