Album Review

Krzysztof Penderecki “Musica da Camera” [Wergo]

cujo   10/14/2005   A Library, CD

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Gosh-darn, I want to play some chamber music soooo bad. But I don’t want any of that namby-pamby Beethoven stuff, not even the late quartets, not even the Grosse Fugue! I need angry Polish people beating their instruments, scraping their cellos? private parts, extruding sounds from their fingerboard. Maybe instead I want newer, calmer music that can soothe and sound good, plagal cadences be damned!. Heck, I’ll even stoop so low as to settle for a clarinet, ‘I’m this hungry. And I only have 10 minutes til my next air break!?
Well, have I got the answer for you. Praise the heavens for this Wergo release of (most of) KP’s chamber music, all short pieces perfectly suited for our break clock. KP is mostly known for his larger-scale works, but these small works prove that KP is the real deal, the total package, a genius large and small. The 1950s student-era works are have the most classical bent to them (especially the Sonata), dig the Webernian atmosphere in the 3 violin miniatures. The 3 works from the 1960s have the most adrenaline and percussiveness to offer; the two quartets are just crazy (remember #2? I think it’s the bed over which Linda Blair throws up…) and the Capriccio is a solo cello showpiece. The 1970s? Apparently quite forgettable. The 1980s pieces all are much calmer, the Gedanke is almost saccharine, the viola Cadenza rivals Berio’s sequenzae, and Per Slava, while it has the name-drop going for it, turns out to be the least engaging piece on the disc – blame the not-Slava cellist? I was taken by pleasant surprise by the two clarinet pieces, the Prelude especially. And the longest piece at 13:35 is the 1991 String Trio, a virtuosic whopper, a return to a more visceral and threatening style: fierce repeated chords heralding solo meditations, finishing with a frenzied fugue. -Cujo, October 2005

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