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Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b. 1933)
Hommage ŕ Penderecki
La Follia Per Violino Solo (2013) [12:02]
Duo concertante for violin and double bass (2010) [5:07]
Sonata No. 2 per violino e pianoforte (1999) [32:52]
Violin Concerto No. 2 Metamorphosen (1992-1995) [38:03]
Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin), Roman Patkoló (double bass), Lambert Orkis (piano), London Symphony Orchestra / Krzysztof Penderecki
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 483 5163 [49:48+38:04]

To celebrate the 85th birthday of Krzysztof Penderecki, DG has drawn together all four works that he composed in collaboration with Anne-Sophie Mutter, offering the listener solo, chamber and orchestral music. The four works presented here are as it were in reverse order, with the earliest and most substantial work, the Metamorphosen, getting a disc all to itself, which at just over 38 minutes might seem to be short measure, however in the scheme of things, this is a well-planned and executed set, especially when it is marketed at the price of a single disc. I do, however, believe that this release might have limited scope for sales, especially when you take into account that this recording of the Metamorphosen alone, is here receiving its third incarnation on disc.

The fist disc opens with opens with Penderecki’s take on La Follia and so joins the age-old tradition of writing a set of variations on this Iberian tune. Beginning with an opening Andante in which we get plucked notes and varying tempos that seem to undulate, and which are interspersed with sections of bowed music, the theme is at first hard to detect, but listen carefully and it is there. Penderecki’s view of La Follia is, as one might imagine, quite different from what has gone before, certainly the versions I know, with some very expressive sections interspersed with sparse and almost cold sections; when the theme is stated in full it is done in a stately fashion, with the theme really coming to fruition in the final and ninth variation, which concludes by returning to the first in the way it reverts to Tempo 1.

The Duo concertante is quite different from anything else on this disc in the way that the composer approaches the music; gone is the sometimes austere approach, in favour of a more energetic feel. Here Penderecki offers an almost jazz-like approach with the blending of the instruments having an almost improvisatory feel at times. This short work is unusual in the way in which it pits the violin against the double bass, with each having a starring role at times.

The final, and my favourite work on the first disc, is the Sonata No. 2 which is a large-scale work that lasts over half an hour, and is therefore, nearly as long as his violin concertos. This is typical late Penderecki; indeed, there were forty-six years between this and the Sonata No. 1 of 1953. It is cast in five movements with the work having an almost symmetrical feel with the first two movements being joined and played as if the Larghetto is a prelude to the following Allegretto scherzando, with both being played in an attacca fashion, something that is similar to the approach of the final two movements. However, it is with the middle Notturno movement that the music finds its true fruition. Here Penderecki develops his musical language through his use of harmony and chromaticism, as well as his development of semitonal ideas to produce the true heart of the work.

Whilst Metamorphosen was the composer’s second concerto, it was his fourth work for violin and orchestra, the others being his earlier Concerto of 1962-63, which the composer withdrew and the Capriccio of 1967, Wanda Wilkomirska giving its premiere in the same year. The Concerto No. 1 was completed ten years later than the Capriccio and dedicated to Isaac Stern, who gave the premiere in Basel in 1977. Penderecki revised the concerto ten years later. If the First Concerto was his breakthrough work in terms of musical development, the Metamorphosen can be seen as a consolidation of his mature musical style. The violin is Penderecki’s own instrument (he studied it during his youth), it can therefore be argued that he has a special relationship with the instrument, perhaps it was this relationship that was the spark of inspiration that led to him writing the Concerto after he and Anne-Sophie Mutter performed the Violin Concerto No. 1 of Prokofiev together in 1988, with the resulting Concerto described as creating an “impression of a vast labyrinth” in the booklet notes. The name Metamorphosen bears no relation to Richard Strauss’ work of the same title and is in reality a single movement concerto in six joined sections, with the title referring to the way that the final work changed and developed into its final shape. Whilst I prefer the Violin Concerto No. 1, especially in Konstanty Andrzej Kulka’s performance on Dux (DUX 1185), I think this work is not far behind in my affection, especially as it must be regarded as the definitive recording with both the dedicatee and the composer involved in the performance.

Throughout the performances are, as you might expect, first rate; Anne-Sophie Mutter has the benefit of the composer’s insight when it comes to her performances, with Penderecki advising her on how he envisaged the music being played. The result is a collection of four works which work well together. As a soloist Mutter is excellent as are her chamber partners Roman Patkoló and Lambert Orkis; however it is the Concerto, where she is joined by the London Symphony Orchestra and the composer himself as conductor,that is the crowning glory of this release, a must for all fans of the Polish composer’s music.

Stuart Sillitoe



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