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Krzywicki: Alchemy / Klock, Nowicki, Cohen, Bengtson, Khaner, Narucki

Krzywicki / Klock / Nowicki
Release Date: 12/13/2011 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1317  
Composer:  Jan Krzywicki
Performer:  Lynn KlockSusan NowickiFrederic T. CohenMatthew Bengtson,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

KRZYWICKI Fable 1. Partita 2. Alchemy 3. 5 Lyrics 4. In Evening’s Shadow 5 1 Lynn Klock (bar sax); 1,2 Susan Nowicki (pn); 2 Frederic T. Cohen (ob); 3 Read more class="ARIAL12">Matthew Bengtson (pn); 4 Jeffrey Khaner (fl); 4 Charles Abramovic (pn); 5 Susan Narucki (sop); 5 Jason Vieaux (gtr); 5 Hirono Oka (vn); 5 Rachel Ku (va); 5 Yumi Kendall (vc) ALBANY 1317 (72:59)

It is good to have this omnibus of chamber music from the supremely talented Philadelphia-based composer Jan Krzywicki, an artist whose reputation deserves to be far greater, both in his hometown and at large. I should disclose that I know the man personally, but my acquaintance with him grew out of my continuing exposure to his marvelously rich and expressive work. Philadelphia is a big city that often feels like a small town, especially in such rarified realms as new music. This community resembles an extended family, complete with the usual rivalries and jealousies, but nobody seems to have a bad word to say about Jan Krzywicki, man or music.

A telling place to start in introducing the work of Krzywicki is to mention a vital element in his biography. He was a student of Vincent Persichetti at Juilliard, and became deeply attached to the great man both artistically and personally, which was also the case with many other fellow Persichetti protégés. Persichetti never encouraged his students (who included such wildly different personalities as Philip Glass and Peter Schickele) to be imitative, but his obsessive concern with precision and craft was a vital legacy to those who had the talent to appreciate it. Persichetti was also a brilliant virtuoso, and Krzywicki never tires of telling the story of his first encounter with his eventual mentor.

“As I eagerly waited my first lesson with Persichetti at Juilliard, an older student who was already studying with Persichetti asked me what I was going to bring to my first lesson. I told him, I have the first five minutes of an orchestra piece, to which he said, that’s great, you’ll get a chance to hear your piece. He explained that Perishcetti would be able to play it right through. I was pretty skeptical of this as the piece started innocently enough with two muted trumpets but soon created a long, large crescendo to fortissimo with lots of things happening. Well, at the lesson I handed the score over to him and he started playing; then as the piece progressed he added the percussion parts by tapping his feet on the floor, and when he couldn’t fit the horn parts under his fingers, because there were none left to use, he started singing the horn parts! I really did feel that I heard my orchestra piece that day.”

There is, I imagine, nothing quite as ambitious structurally as that early work on this CD, but that is probably because Krzywicki has long since grasped the importance of concision in his writing, certainly a legacy of his teacher. This is especially apparent in the three works for solo wind instruments (baritone saxophone, oboe, and flute) with piano. This music showcases Krzywicki’s wonderful feel for timbral values, both structurally and dramatically. Some of this material is quite sparse, and Krzywicki makes every note count. His moods can range from darkly somber to exuberant, with an expressivity that is often operatic in impact.

Krzywicki’s writing for solo piano has always been a highlight of his repertoire, featuring very idiomatic writing that tends to show off the romantic side of the composer’s personality. Alchemy is an excellent example of the specimen, with its lush harmonics and dense texture; complexity, but never for its own sake. It is worth noting that all three of the superb pianists on this release, Matthew Bengtson, Susan Nowicki, and Charles Abramovic, are Krzywicki colleagues, and regular performers of his music.

The largest piece on this program, both in terns of length and instrumentation, is In Evening’s Shadow , for soprano, guitar, and string trio. It is also the most direct work, in a sense, featuring a a very clear emotive and dramatic contour, concluding with a haunting setting of the great Purcell aria “When I Am Laid in Earth.” The use of guitar imparts a kind of timeless aura to the soundscape. In this composition, this versatile composer is responding to the wishes of the work’s commissioner, guitarist Peter Segal, who requested the music for his own memorial as he was dying of cancer in 2006. It is tempting to attribute a kind of conventional beauty to this highly compelling and moving work, but that would falsely imply that there is anything ordinary about the music of Jan Krzywicki. Nothing could be further from the truth.

FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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Works on This Recording

Fable by Jan Krzywicki
Performer:  Lynn Klock (Baritone Saxophone), Susan Nowicki (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Partita by Jan Krzywicki
Performer:  Frederic T. Cohen (Oboe), Susan Nowicki (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
Alchemy by Jan Krzywicki
Performer:  Matthew Bengtson (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
Five Lyrics by Jan Krzywicki
Performer:  Jeffrey Khaner (Flute), Charles Abramovic (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
In Evening's Shadow by Jan Krzywicki
Performer:  Hirono Oka (Violin), Susan Narucki (Soprano), Jason Vieaux (Guitar),
Rachel Ku (Viola), Yumi Kendall (Cello)
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 

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