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Micolaj Gorecki, Henryk Micolaj Gorecki: Nocturne For Orchestra; Concerto For Harpsichord

Gorecki / Silesian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Release Date: 05/28/2013 
Label:  Dux Records   Catalog #: 924   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Performer:  Anna GóreckaKaja Danczowska
Conductor:  Miroslaw Jacek Blaszczyk
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GÓRECKI Broad Waters 4. Concerto for Harpsichord (or Piano) and Strings 2,5. M. GÓRECKI Nocturne for Orchestra 3. Concerto Notturno for Violin & Strings 1,5 Miros?aw Jacek B?aszczyk, cond; 1 Kaja Danczowska (vn); 2 Read more class="ARIAL12">Anna Górecka (pn); 3 Silesian PSO; 4 Silesian P Ch; 5 Silesian CO DUX 924 (57:43)

Father-and-son composers (or father-daughter, or mother-daughter, or mother-son) are not really that common. Perhaps the most famous examples were those of J. S. Bach's brood, which may have comprised the largest group of sibling composers descended from a great composer in history. Yet here, we are given the music of the late Henryk Górecki (1933-2010), whose Third Symphony became a mega-hit roughly 23 years ago, as well as that of his son Miko?aj, while Miko?aj’s sister, Anna Górecka, plays the solo part in her father’s keyboard concerto.

The CD opens with Miko?aj’s Nocturne for Orchestra, written shortly after his father’s death. The elegiac opening section sounds so much like Henryk’s music that it is easy to be fooled into thinking so, but when it shifts gears into a sprightly scherzo-like section, an entirely different compositional voice is heard. This section is definitely based on the harmonies and rhythms of Eastern folk music (more Russian, really, than Polish), but it bears little resemblance to most of the music I’ve heard by his father. A solo clarinet leads us to a Largo section after the brusque scherzo is completed, and here the music sounds calmer and more resigned than the sad lament of the opening.

Henryk Górecki’s suite of choral pieces, Broad Waters , begins with a hypnotic piece, “O, our river Narew,” in which a repeated phrase over unchanging harmony has the feeling of minimalism. The second piece, “Oh, when in Powi?le,” is livelier in rhythm but also stays on the same chord for most of its brief (one minute) duration, while “Oh, Johnny, Johnny” moves at a medium-slow pace and has quite varied harmony, though always tonal. (Górecki, according to the liner notes, bristled when Polish music critics saw his turn towards tonalism as an artistic step backwards, saying that despite the different forms his works took they were all consistent in his own persona. “I never changed a revolutionist’s garb into a Franciscan monk’s habit,” he once said, “for I never wore either.”) Both this section and the one following, “She was picking wild roses,” sound like authentic Polish folk themes, not surprising when one considers that the texts were taken from a collection of folk songs from the Kurpie region. The concluding piece, “Broad waters,” has a strong sense of valediction about it.

Next we hear Miko?aj’s Concerto Notturno for Violin and Strings, composed in 2000. The notes claim that the “beautiful melodic line brings to mind the Romantic style and the music of Tadeusz Baird,” but not knowing Baird’s work I can only judge it on its own merits. The slow opening is scored for basses and cellos, over which the solo violin plays a doleful theme with long notes in the viola register (at first I thought it was a wind instrument until I realized that only strings were employed.) The soloist then rises in range, playing chords and solo notes, while the accompaniment also slowly rises in pitch. This entire section has the feeling of a sunrise. The lively middle section is scored very lightly, and the harmonic base seems to have the feeling of Magyar music about it, much like the Hungarian folk tunes collected by Bartók (thoughts of Josef Szigeti came to mind as I was listening to it). This movement runs without pause into the concluding Molto tanto , and here the violin plays very high up in its range while the (again) lightly-scored accompaniment, at first just high strings but eventually including lower ones as well, bring the concerto to its conclusion, this time like a sunset. There was also a feeling of calm about this music that put me in mind of P?teris Vasks’s masterpiece Plainscapes.

The concluding keyboard concerto by Henryk Górecki is played by his daughter on the piano rather than the harpsichord. The music here is livelier than one is used to hearing from him, starting, in fact, with busy running bass figures in the piano’s left hand while the right plays a short-breathed chordal melody above them. Eventually the pianist’s right hand plays arpeggiated figures against somewhat astringent-sounding strings scored closely together. In some respects, this 1980 composition harks back to Górecki’s earlier style, though the harmonies sound more modal than atonal. (One can, indeed, picture this music played on a harpsichord, but with the peculiarly astringent harmonies it would sound rather strange.) Eventually, the orchestra thins out and drops away as the soloist dominates the music with rhythmically lively figures; rolling triplets are interjected against choppy violin figures, and the music settles into a minimalist style strongly reminiscent of Philip Glass. This is the Vivace section of this brief concerto, whose two movements run only about eight minutes! It’s a refreshing change of pace for Górecki, something quite different yet very interesting.

This is an extremely interesting disc, well played by all concerned and using the alternating pieces by father and son to reflect and refract each other. Well done!

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Broad Waters, Op. 39 by Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979; Poland 
Venue:  Concert Hall of the Karol Szymanowsky Mu 
Length: 12 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Concerto for Piano/Harpsichord and Strings, Op. 40 by Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Performer:  Anna Górecka (Piano)
Conductor:  Miroslaw Jacek Blaszczyk
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1980; Poland 
Venue:  Concert Hall of the Karol Szymanowsky Mu 
Length: 7 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Nocturne for orchestra by Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Conductor:  Miroslaw Jacek Blaszczyk
Period: Contemporary 
Venue:  Concert Hall of the Karol Szymanowsky Mu 
Length: 20 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Concerto Notturno, for violin & orchestra by Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Performer:  Kaja Danczowska (Violin)
Conductor:  Miroslaw Jacek Blaszczyk
Period: Contemporary 
Venue:  Concert Hall of the Karol Szymanowsky Mu 
Length: 15 Minutes 14 Secs. 

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