Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933)
Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2
Chamber music has featured only intermittently in the outputof Krzysztof Penderecki. An accomplished violinist as a student, he wrotenumerous works for small ensembles up until the First String Quartet of 1960.Thereafter, with the exception of a Second String Quartet from 1969, theemphasis was firmly on operatic, choral and orchestral works. Chambercomposition was restricted to short 'homages' for friends and musicians until,in the 1990s, Penderecki returned to the medium in earnest. The present discfeatures one of his most significant chamber works from the end of that period,as well as several shorter pieces from either end of the composer's careerwhich place his approach to instrumental writing in context.
Composed in Krakow during 1953, before Penderecki had begunhis studies at the Academy of Music, what is now known as the First Sonata forViolin and Piano was not published until the early 1990s. After several ominouspiano chords, the Allegro bursts into life with a lively, Shostakovich-likeidea, contrasted with a more expressive theme. This alternation is thenelaborated and varied along the lines of a truncated sonata-form movement. Thefirst idea breaks off to reveal, after a pause, the more inward world of theAndante, a muted violin pursuing its Bartokian soliloquy over pensive pianochords. A sudden surge leads directly into the toccata-like Allegro vivace, itsbrusque main theme alternating with a gentler idea in a brief but energeticrondo which concludes the work with a flourish.
Composed in 1959, immediately after Penderecki had won allthree prizes awarded that year by the Polish Composers' Association and justbefore the start of his international career, the Three Miniatures for Violinand Piano suggest the influence of Webern in their concision, expressiveintensity and dynamic subtlety. No. 1 contrasts detached piano chords withextended violin techniques, No. 2 is a fractured violin solo, and No. 3 goessome way towards reconciling the instruments in a dialogue of unpredictablecontrasts. Wholly abstract in its musical import, each piece is intriguinglyprefaced in the score with a poem from Jerzy Harasymowicz's cycle Genealogy ofthe Instruments. The composer, together with pianist Henryk Jarznynki, gave thepremi?¿re in Krakow during June 1960.
Composed in 1984, Cadenza is actually an appendix to theViola Concerto which Penderecki wrote the previous year. Both works begin withan intervallic figure underlying much of the music that follows. Althoughwritten without bar lines, Cadenza falls into three, clearly discerniblesections. The first of these elaborates on the opening figure with increasinglyexpressive arches and intensifying dynamics. At its apex, this gives way to alively central section with much virtuoso writing for the instrument. The musicreaches a peak of activity, then a rapid slowing down marks a return to theopening music and, finally, the initial gesture. Grigory Schislin gave thepremi?¿re at Luslawice in September 1984.
The Second Violin Sonata, completed in 2000, is amongPenderecki's most substantial instrumental works to date. The arch-liketrajectory of its five-movement form recalls several late pieces by Schnittke(especially his Eighth Symphony and Second Cello Sonata) and also Shostakovich(notably his Eighth String Quartet). Quiet, pizzicato violin chords begin theopening Larghetto, interspersed with impassioned bowed phrases. The piano nowenters with an upward rushing scale, then the two instruments pursue a bleaklylyrical dialogue, in the process expounding upon their initial material. Abrief, double- stopped cadenza passage leads directly into the Allegrettoscherzando, its strutting, parodistic theme a familiar element in thecomposer's musical idiom ever since the First Violin Concerto [Naxos 8.555265].The music quickly becomes more aggressive, before a fugitive recall of the maintheme, the violin now muted, and a tersely inscrutable closing gesture. Marked'Notturno', the Adagio is the keystone of the work, and its emotional centre ofgravity. The main theme unwinds unhurriedly yet with an agitation that seesseveral climaxes punctuate the movement's free-ranging discourse. Midway awistful passage finds both instruments musing on the work's opening gesture ina telling point of repose. The preceding scherzo is alluded to, presaging abrief eruption, before the movement moves back into the plaintive territoryfrom which it emerged. A brief pause, and the Allegro breaks in with a forcefulidea again derived from that opening gesture. The second theme is contrastinglyserene and expressive, setting up a sonata-form structure which incorporates acadenza-like passage going into the reprise and further references to thesecond movement, culminating in a downward plunging sequence for violin, whoseprolonged trill ushers in the final Andante. Less an autonomous movement initself than a coda to the work as a whole, it draws together previous ideas ina flowing fantasia, at length disappearing regretfully into silence.