New Polish Music for String Quartet and Orchestra

KRZYSZTOF LENCZOWSKI (b.1986): Supernova, Waves, DAWID LUBOWICZ (b.1981): Toccata, Too Early, HANNA KULENTY-MAJOOR (b.1961): Concerto rosso, MICHAŁ ZABORSKI (b.1978): Melody of the Prairie, MATEUSZ SMOCZYŃSKI (b.1984): Cosmos, Happy.

Catalogue Number: 02U060

Label: CD Accord

Reference: ACD244

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: Oh, where to start with this one? Well, it's all very approachable and enjoyable, though parts - not all - of the program may fall into the 'guilty pleasure' category for some serious collectors (or collectors who take themselves too seriously). The ATOM quartet are hip young musicians playing 'classical' instruments very well, but in their main career in the service of 'fusion' or 'crossover' material, mainly by the group's members (somewhat like 'Spark' - see 11T068). They describe this as 'jazz', which is certainly a component of their style, which also encompasses elements of world music, 'new simplicity', rock, minimalism, and so on. All but one piece here are by the players in the group, and all share a tendency toward steady beats, with the players giving themselves opportunities for jazz-like, perhaps at least partly improvised solos. Lenczowski and Lubowicz introduce some figuration borrowed from Baroque music, but also a strongly rhythmic reminiscent of the classical ensemble arrangements of rock songs that became popular after the Kronos Quartet did Purple Haze. Smoczyński pushes the envelope a bit wider in Cosmos, bringing in new age, traditional folk music, avant-garde and conventional jazz and in places a rather wider harmonic palette than is in evidence for most of the rest of the disc. His rollicking encore, Happy, though, is a delicious high-energy exercise in blues harmonies, the sort of thing William Russo and Friedrich Gulda were so good at when they chose. The Zaborski and Lubowicz' lush Too Early are the set's melodic 'ballads'. Kulenty's Concerto fits in this company, but it also sort of doesn't. Like the previous offering of her music from 2011 (12N088), it is exhilaratingly energetic, with much in common with the processes of minimalism. She spreads her harmonic net wider, admitting a good deal of dissonance (always in a tonal framework), going as far as using the ensemble percussively and unpitched in places. As the title suggests, the piece is a kind of Concerto grosso (with some sort of pun on 'red wine' - feel free to try to decipher this from the composer's note, which at least in English seems to stretch it a bit), with the kind of structure and momentum associated with its Baroque forebears, but reimagined for the Bang on a Can generation. Atom String Quartet, NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra; Christian Danowicz.

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