Krzysztof Penderecki

Penderecki Conducts Penderecki, Album 2

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The second of two volumes that appeared on Angel in the early '70s, this album features two semi-concerti (one apiece for violin and harpsichord) and a shorter work for two string orchestras. Capriccio is a complex, virtuoso composition with Wanda Wilkomirska negotiating the wild solo role. Even so, the orchestra (which includes four saxophones, contrabass clarinet, bowed saw, and electric bass guitar) plays no mere backup role but instead engages the soloist throughout, even stealing the spotlight on a few occasions. With wry humor, Penderecki closes the thorny piece with a mock waltz figure and a C major chord. Emanationen is the most powerful work here, an eerie meditation in which the two string orchestras are tuned a semitone apart, resulting in ghostly and strangely evocative harmonics. The Partita is a jaunty work, playing off the jangly harpsichord against an orchestra full of sparkling colors, heavy on fleeting brass figures and exotic percussion. A handful of jazzy basslines even emerge once in a while, contributing to the light character of the work. Ultimately, however, this results somewhat more in a ragtag effect rather than a cohesive, strong whole. Still, Penderecki produces sounds that simply hadn't been achieved by orchestras at this point (they've since become a common resource pool for cinematic composers), and along with its superior companion volume, Penderecki Conducts Penderecki, Vol. 1, this offers an excellent snapshot of the intriguing composer at mid-career.