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Sonorous richness

RON BIERMAN explores Skrowaczewski's world

innova    568

Skrowaczewski's World. Ensemble Capriccio. © 2002 American Composers Forum

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski is best known as a conductor. He replaced Antal Dorati at the Minneapolis Symphony and served another long stint with the Hallé Orchestra. He was a child prodigy as both pianist and composer, producing his first symphonic work at the age of seven. The three pieces on this disk are compositions for chamber groups. They sound contemporary, but never stray far from conventional tonalities and rhythms. If this disk is indicative, his music is becoming more abstract as he grows older. The program is in reverse chronological order and so increases in immediate emotional appeal as it unfolds.

Musica a Quattro (1998) is for violin, viola, cello and clarinet. The melodic material on which all five movements are based appears in the first. The themes are relatively short in length and it takes some effort to keep track of how they are used and developed. The work becomes clearer with repeated listening. The clarinet blends beautifully with the strings. Skrowaczewski makes especially good use of the instrument's lower register and there is an effective mix of ensemble and solo work. This excerpt from the first movement provides a feeling for the entire piece [listen -- track 1, 2:17-3:12].

The String Trio (1991) is also in five movements. The composer here plays with the sounds of particular intervals as much as complete melodies. The concluding Furioso is perhaps the most conventional sounding movement on the disk [listen -- track 10, 1:57-2:48].

The Fantasie per sei (1988) in two movements features the largest ensemble, adding oboe, piano and contrabass (rather than a second violin) to the string trio. The work includes longer, more immediately appealing melodies than the first two. The other instruments go along with the oboe's often melancholy sound. The concluding movement is more mixed in atmosphere, even briefly recalling the happier writing for oboe by French composers such as Poulenc. Unlike the first two pieces the Fantasie was recorded during a concert, but the audience is quiet and editing has removed applause.

Though these are serious and sometimes difficult to understand works, the performances are so strong that the recording makes a favorable impression the first time through. The string trio was founded in 1985. Clarinetist Burt Hara has been a principle player for both the Minneapolis and Philadelphia Orchestras. Ensemble blends have a sonorous richness and all soloists are superb.

The composer's notes for the album are a solid plus. The entire package is recommended for all but the least adventurous listeners.

Copyright © 15 March 2003 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


Skrowaczewski's World - Chamber Music of Stanislaw Skrowaczewski

568 63'43" 2002 American Composers Forum

Ensemble Capriccio - Chouhei Min, violin, Korey Konkol, viola and Mina Fisher, cello, with Burt Hara, clarinet, Karl Paulnack, piano, William Schrickel, bass, John Snow, oboe

Musica a Quattro for string trio and clarinet (1998); String Trio (1991); Fantasie per Sei (1988)


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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Saturday series of shorter CD reviews