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PETER DALE explores the orchestral music of Penderecki -
a composer who lit a beacon for Polish music


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The first two movements are less successful however, and this must be reckoned a critical weakness in anything called a symphony. They are episodic rather than cumulatively argued, gestural rather than driven by the force of the character of the musical ideas involved. Were it not for the weight and cogency of the last two movements, this weakness might well be the downfall of the symphony, but that would be a pity because, uneven though it is, it deserves to be heard and (better still) richly rewards being heard again.

The conviction of the music is amply conveyed by the passion and conviction of a superb performance here. The woodwind playing particularly, in the many episodes, makes the music sound as gorgeous as anything you would find in Szymanowski, unlikely though the parallel might seem at first sight. [Listen - track 3, 06:58 - 07:50.]

The remaining three pieces on this disc - the Threnody, the Flourescences for Orchestra, and De Natura Sonoris II - are much pre-occupied (overwhelmed, some might say) with Penderecki's avowed concern for sonority, for the quality of sound itself rather than for sounds as components of music. The Threnody however, even after all these years, is still a very impressive piece, but I am not sure that I can appreciate it now as well as I could before reading the comprehensive, useful notes accompanying this recording. The disturbing news is that this piece - as much an icon of conscience as of music, or so I thought - gained its title only as an afterthought. I would rather not have known that. Such a title, like conscience itself, should not be negotiable. Nevertheless, the music remains: the intensely white dazzle of 52 strings, the straining intensity of music at the very extremities of pitch, the absolute plausibility of the aleatoric writing which produces effects which seem as inevitable as they are, in principle, free to have dissolved into mere masses of inarticulate sound. [Listen - track 6, 07:54 - 08:51.]

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Copyright © 3 June 2000 Peter Dale, Essex, UK







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