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Penderecki: Orchestral Works Vol. 1

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Album Review

The first of two volumes documenting various orchestral works of Penderecki, this captures him at arguably the most fascinating point in his career, where the sheer experimentalism of his early years was being melded into structures that were almost traditional and even romantic in nature. One highlight is a wild and woolly Cello Concerto, with Siegfried Palm in the spotlight navigating a virtuosic piece that's virtually an avant-garde version of something that might have been written for Paganini. Palm launches into the work with ferocity and abandon, the orchestra (replete with saxophones, a harmonium, and an electric guitar) bellowing and rumbling in pitched battle. De Natura Sonoris No. 2 is equally impressive, though in a much more somber vein. As the title implies, it's a pure exploration of sound, a shifting textural fabric ranging from a keening duo section for bird whistle and bowed saw to an extraordinarily dense cacophony of low brass and strident percussion (including hammered train rail!) that ultimately exhausts itself into a series of plaintive moans. The remaining two compositions, if less immediately overwhelming, are also fine, haunting works, Kanon especially emphasizing Penderecki's slashing writing for string orchestra combined with additional taped string music, again producing a sonic thickness rarely heard in contemporary classical music. Unavailable on disc as of 2002, this album, along with its companion volume, is an essential document of Penderecki's career.


Born: 23 November 1933 in Debica, Poland

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

An internationally known composer and conductor, Krzysztof Penderecki is best known for his 1965 composition "St. Luke's Passion." His style reflects the changes in music from the '60s to the present day. He has played with and conducted several orchestras and has won numerous awards for his composition and conducting. Born in Debica, Poland, in 1933, Krzysztof Penderecki graduated from the Krakow High School of Music and quickly became an accomplished composer in Poland. He won all three prizes...
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