This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
An excellent recording of two masterpieces
Górecki is apparently reluctant to disclose any specific programme behind his wild and wonderful Kleines Requiem fiir eine Polka for piano and 13 instruments, a striking mini-drama that steals the air to a softly tolling bell, raises an alarming Allegro impetuoso, quietens to Adagio molto then suddenly catapults us into a beer hall for a crazy, Chaplinesque polka. And that's just the beginning: Górecki's polka stops, starts again and draws to an abrupt halt before the bell returns and an Adagio cantabile leads on to a closing .Largo. The structure of the Kleines Requiem embraces extremes of slow and fast, serenity and panic, introspection and angry protest.
Listening to it again after a period of six months reaffirms both my initial enthusiasm and my firm belief that it is among Górecki's most profound compositions.
This excellent new recording under Reinbert de Leeuw is less taut than its immediate predecessor (conducted by David Zinman) but rather more free in spirit: the polka itself sounds less convulsively driven than under Zinman, more folky and madcap, while the recording is both more atmospheric and more comprehensively appreciative of Górecki's brass writing. Either will do nicely, whereas in the case of Lerchenmusik for clarinet, cello and piano (named after a music festival at Lerchenborg Castle and its 'guardian angel' Louise Lerche-Lerchenborg) there are two other options, a keen but rather brittle-sounding production from the Camerata Vistula and a far subtler performance by three soloists from the London Sinfonietta. Lerchenmusik, like the Kleines Requiem, conveys an uneasy peace — but with a major difference: this time, strident humour gives way to quiet consolation. Again there are violent interruptions, but the most beautiful movement — the fourth — features a plainchant quotation that melds into a fragment of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto. De Leeuw's performance displays controlled flexibility (his handling of the fourth movement's opening bars just hints at rubato) but the London Sinfonietta's cellist, Christopher van Kampen, observes a truer pp at the very beginning of the work. Given a choice, I would opt for the newer recording, just.
As to couplings, Nonesuch's Kleines Requiem offers the maniacal Harpsichord Concerto — a joyful thriller with no obvious secrets — and the strange but compelling Good Night ("In Memoriam Michael Vyner"). The London Sinfonietta's Lerchenmusik is coupled with the First String Quartet, Already it is Dusk (superbly played by the Kronos Quartet), whereas the Camerata Vistula add shorter works by Lutoslawski and Prokofiev. My own advice, especially for first-time buyers, would be to invest in this new Philips disc, a spontaneously performed, well-recorded and very well-annotated coupling of two — yes I'll put my neck on the line and say it — of two masterpieces.
– Gramophone [5/1996]
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