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Wojciech Ziemowit Zych: Works For Orchestra

Zych / Gorczynski / Stepka / Wyszkowska
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Dux Records   Catalog #: 722   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wojciech Ziemowit Zych
Performer:  Michal Górczynski
Conductor:  Przemyslaw Fiugajski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bialystok Podlasie Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ZYCH Symphony No. 1. Bass Clarinet Concerto. Stirrings of the Will Przemys?aw Fiugajski, cond; Podlasie Opera Phil O; Micha? Górczy?ski (bs cl) DUX 0722 (72:09)

I was about to offer an apology to the reader for having requested this CD based on the mistaken assumption—I don’t know why—that Wojciech Ziemowit Zych (b. 1976) was an obscure early Classical composer. The absurdity of my supposition was only magnified once I realized that no 18th-century composer could have Read more written a concerto for bass clarinet, since it didn’t exist until 1838, when Adolphe Sax introduced the first modern version of the instrument, a quite different animal from the basset clarinet for which Mozart wrote his concerto.

Though I’ve been known to speak harshly of the musical avant-garde (which is why I no longer review such fare), as it turns out, in this case no apology is necessary, for Zych is one of those contemporary composers whose music is quite approachable and offers a very satisfying listening experience.

The Symphony No. 1 was written in 2001–02, and as with many works of its time and typology, its techniques are drawn from a well-established lexicon of late 20th- and 21st-century compositional devices. There is no more reason to criticize this than there would be to criticize 18th- and 19th-century composers for following the rules of voice-leading and tonal harmonic progression, or for ending every work with a V-I or IV-I cadence. These were simply the stock in trade of the period. The common stock in Zych’s trade are (1) disjunct, jagged rhythms punctuated by sudden pauses; (2) heavy reliance on Klangfarbe —i.e., coloristic effects and textures achieved through string harmonics, glissandos, tremolo, and pizzicato, along with flutter-tonguing winds, glissing brass, and eerie, bell-like, glassy sounds; (3) non-tonal chord clusters and a generally amelodic or declamatory approach to phrase construction; and (4) formal design that coalesces around and emerges from, in the words of note author Maciej Jablonski, a “mosaic composed of very small and refined particles.”

I would tend to disagree, however, with Jablonski’s assertion that there is anything particularly “unique” in Zych’s style, for as indicated above, these same techniques are well represented in works by many 20th-century Polish composers, and technically speaking, the “style” is hardly new; its vernacular was forged well over 50 years ago during the post-World War II era by the likes of Górecki and Penderecki, and before them, their forerunners such as Bacewicz, Lutos?awski, and Panufnik. Yet just as a Classical symphony by Dittersdorf and a symphony by Haydn may employ similar techniques and follow the same rules, the former may be predictable, pedestrian, and prosaic while the latter is inventive, imaginative, and ingenious. Thus, while I hear nothing novel or innovative in Zych’s score that I haven’t heard before, his symphony does strike me as presenting a pleasing profile that, in its 30-minute span consisting of two balanced 15-minute movements, makes convincing use of its materials and advances an articulate and coherent musical argument.

The Bass Clarinet Concerto, composed in 2003, follows the symphony by one year. The stylistic approach is similar, but Zych seems to put his materials to somewhat different use here. I hesitate to use the word “Romantic,” because the piece is much too avant-garde for that; but this work, also in two movements of approximately equal length, is much more dramatic and emotive in an almost cinematic way. For some reason, isolated passages reminded me of Stravinsky’s Petrushka . Perhaps the association is unavoidable, given Stravinsky’s inclusion in his score of a part for bass clarinet. In any case, Zych’s concerto is not a virtuosic showpiece for the instrument. For the most part, its role seems more one of an obbligato instrument embedded within the orchestral fabric than that of a solo protagonist. If I could ever bring myself to call such a piece of music “beautiful,” Zych’s Bass Clarinet Concerto might just qualify. It’s really quite an absorbing and, at moments, even moving work.

Stirrings of the Will is the most recently written piece on the disc, having been completed in 2006. Formally, I suppose you could call it a tone poem that, in some way, according to the program note, is related to the composer’s appreciation of Schopenhauer. The author describes the piece as a series of “distends, eruptions, lapses, sudden accelerations, and retractions,” and compares it to the works of György Kurtág.

It’s impossible of course to critique the performances. Conductor Przemys?aw Fiugajski and the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra of Bia?ystock seem to know what they’re about, bass clarinetist Micha? Górczy?ski sounds technically adept, and the Dux recording is excellent. While this type of fare is not likely to have the same wide appeal of the latest release of a Mahler symphony, modern-music enthusiasts—and you know who you are—will derive much enjoyment from this CD.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Symphony No. 1 by Wojciech Ziemowit Zych
Conductor:  Przemyslaw Fiugajski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bialystok Podlasie Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Contemporary 
Venue:  Podlasie Opera & Philharmonic Concert Ha 
Length: 31 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Concerto for bass clarinet & orchestra by Wojciech Ziemowit Zych
Performer:  Michal Górczynski ()
Conductor:  Przemyslaw Fiugajski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bialystok Podlasie Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2003 
Venue:  Podlasie Opera & Philharmonic Concert Ha 
Length: 31 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Stirrings of the Will, for orchestra by Wojciech Ziemowit Zych
Conductor:  Przemyslaw Fiugajski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bialystok Podlasie Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2003 
Venue:  Podlasie Opera & Philharmonic Concert Ha 
Length: 8 Minutes 59 Secs. 

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