Krzysztof Penderecki (b.1933)
Chamber music has featured intermittently in the output ofKrzysztof Penderecki. Born in Krakow in 1933, he was an accomplished violinistas a student, and a Sonata for Violin and Piano from 1953 was finally publishedsome four decades later. He wrote numerous works for small instrumentalensembles up until the First String Quartet of 1960. Thereafter, with theexception of a Second String Quartet in 1969, the emphasis was firmly onoperatic, choral and orchestral works. Chamber composition was restricted toshort 'homages' to friends and musicians until, in the 1990s, he returned tothe medium in earnest. Apart from the virtuosic String Trio (1992), the presentdisc features the two most significant chamber works of that decade, as well asseveral shorter pieces from either end of the composer's career, which placehis approach to instrumental writing in context.
Written for clarinet, horn, violin, viola, cello and piano,the Sextet (2000), in two contrasting movements, is Penderecki's mostsubstantial chamber work to date. The first movement opens understatedly, as,over tramping piano, the other instruments introduce a number of salient motifswith a Shostakovich-like ironic tinge. The music gathers rhythmic momentum,twice interrupted by cello and horn with a more expressive idea, the secondtime leading to a return of the tramping motion. This draws the instrumentsinto a fearsome whirling motion, presaging the most intensive instrumentalinterplay yet heard. From here, the music drives to a forceful and decisiveending. The second movement opens with sonorous, elegiac music for the stringsover a rhetorical-sounding piano. The clarinet enters with an unwinding melodyline, and the music settles into a mood of pensive melancholy, clarinet andhorn carrying the brunt of the melodic writing. Dramatic intensity ismaintained through some typically Pendereckian 'stepwise' chromatic ascents,while several brief but jagged climaxes undermine the mood of regret. Graduallythe expression becomes more animated and ironic, making the cello's impassionedthrenody, taken up by viola and then clarinet, all the more heartfelt. Fromhere the music draws itself out in a conclusion of sombre, even funerealintensity, becoming increasingly spare and inward as the final bars arereached.
First given in L??beck in August 1993, the Clarinet Quartetis both more concise and more succinct in expression. In the preludialNotturno: Adagio, the solo clarinet introduces the main melodic material in theopening bars, with cello, viola and violin almost an atmospheric backdrop.After a pause the Scherzo: Vivacissimo opens with aggressive repeated patternsin the strings, provoking a strident response from the clarinet. The process isrepeated, before moving straight into the brief Serenade: Tempo di Valse, withits lightly ironic gait. The motion stills, and the finale begins. MarkedAbschied: Larghetto, this is as long as the previous movements combined,another example of the sustained elegies that feature prominently inPenderecki's later output. Strings open up a wide harmonic space in which theclarinet musingly pursues its melodic line. A single cello pizzicato rufflesthe prolonged fade-out.
Composed in 1956, while Penderecki was still a student atKrakow University, the Three Miniatures for Clarinet and Piano give little hintof the radical features the composer was soon to introduce into his music.Indeed, the influence of Bartok is a reminder that the Dance Preludes (1954) byWitold Lutoslawski were then current in Polish new music. The Allegro openswith lively piano writing, with which the clarinet pursues an engagingdiscourse. There follows a plaintive Andante cantabile which wanders towards aquestioning pause, from which the closing Allegro ma non troppo launches itselfin a vigorous and decisive rounding-off of the sequence.
Written for and dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich, theDivertimento for Solo Cello (1994) honours a creative association going backover two decades, including the notable premi?¿re of the Second Cello Concertoin 1982. After a nobly-wrought prelude, the scherzo is of a capricious nature,with much use of pizzicato and col legno, playing with the wood of the bow, inthe writing. There follows a strenuous toccata, Penderecki's distinctivechromatic writing allied to cello playing of bracing virtuosity. Anintrospective yet intense elegy concludes this wide-ranging portrait of a greatartist.
A precis of Penderecki's melodic expression, the Prelude forSolo Clarinet, written in 1987 as a fortieth birthday tribute to the Britishcomposer Paul Patterson, takes the B flat instrument on a thoughtful journeywhich remains true to the Lento sostenuto marking at the beginning of thescore.
Composed in 1959, just before the start of his internationalcareer, the Three Miniatures for Violin and Piano suggest the influence ofWebern in their concision, expressive intensity and dynamic subtlety. No. 1contrasts detached piano chords with extended violin techniques, No. 2 is a fracturedviolin solo, while No. 3 goes some way towards reconciling the instruments in adialogue of often unpredictable contrasts. Although wholly abstract in theirmusical import, each piece is intriguingly prefaced in the score with a poemfrom Jerzy Harasymowicz's cycle Genealogy of the Instruments.