Sunday, May 10, 2015

Witold Lutosławski, Tadeusz Baird and Krzysztof Penderecki – Polish contemporary classics

   After an anti-romantic turn in 20th century music, in the wake of great social changes, European composers constantly expanded the boundaries of musical language and forms. Between great wars many of them were building theories for avant-garde music, trying to exchange old tonality system and traditional attitude to constructing musical forms. This process was stopped in outburst of Second World War, but after it has end, many composers renew their hopes and were still experimenting with various, even more advanced ideas of creating music in alternative way. Many had applying different techniques, electronic or experimental sounds and extreme theoretical ideas. Some composers however, maintaining their radical approach, gave great pieces of symphonic music, entering the symphonic repertory.
   In Polish post-war music most famous composers were Witold Lutosławski, Tadeusz Baird and Krzysztof Penderecki. Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994) was one of most acclaimed composers in Polish history. Main features of his music were clear connection between ideas and means, the balance between the substance and a form and wide stylistic range of his musical output. He was merging different tendencies like folk music influences, twelve-note techniques and aleatoric ideas. In the period of his mature works he was searching for new constructive ideas. One was finished in 1976 Mi-Parti, composition based on duality, double division and difference between parts. It sounds like a kind of minimalistic idea of impressionism, focused on slight, subtle differences and contrasts. Tense orchestral textures are the base forming narration of this work.

Kasprzyk conducts Penderecki, Lutosławski and Baird (1980)

   Great personality of the newest history of Polish music was Tadeusz Baird (1928-1981), composer, teacher and organizer of Warsaw Autumn Festival. He was called the last Polish romantic, although his style was based on contemporary sound and modern orchestrations. Looking for historical background his style had more common with expressionism and was more neoclassical by his artistic program. He uses many elements of historic styles, from archaic sound to construction patterns, but still his music was lyrical, concentrate on melody. The example of such attitude is Elegeia. Composed in 1973, this orchestral piece sounds as a sequence of contrasting episodes where elegiac elements are separated by dramatic inclusions of deep emotional effect.
   Most successful composer of generation debuted after the 2nd World War was Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1936). Shortly after his debut in late fifties and early sixties he became the face of Polish avant-garde movement. Original conceptions of sonoristic space, deep relation with various elements of tradition and fresh ideas of formal principles, were definition of his early style, evolving in seventies to postromantic tradition. The Awakening of Jacob composed in 1974, is orchestral miniature evoking strong emotions based on contrasts, clusters and string instruments glissandos. Its illustrative biblical context was used by Stanley Kubrick for soundtrack setting of the horror movie Shining.
   The closing piece of the album is Anaklasis for string orchestra and percussion by Krzysztof Penderecki. This composition written in 1959-1960 is one of crowning achievements of sonorism.  During three day session on January 1980, at Studio No. 1 of Prague Radio Polish conductor Jacek Kasprzyk with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra recorded this choice of orchestral works by leading Polish composers of this time. Very good program, relevant performances and recordings made this album a full blown contribution in phonographic picture of Polish music. Four stars for music and performance.

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