PAWEL SZYMANSKI (b.1954): 5 Pieces, 4 Pieces, 2 Pieces, PAWEL MYKIETYN (b.1971): String Quartet No. 2.
Catalogue Number: 04Q094
Reference: CDA 68085
Description: Szymánski's ironic, playful post-modern idiom is displayed most effectively in the outer pairs of the Five Pieces. The third, a brief elegy in bell-like harmonics, sets a more serious, ethereal mood, as befits the work's dedication to the memory of the painter Jerzy Stajuda. The other movements set up expectations and then completely shatter them; the first begins as earnest 18th century pastiche, but almost immediately the record is afflicted by tremendous speed and pitch variations, out of which the classical diatonic harmonies strive to reappear; the second parodies Haydnesque clocks and Beethovenian metronomes, while the fourth is clearly a piece of straightforward minimalism until something goes wrong with the mechanism and a piercing warning tone starts to sound; the fifth synthesizes elements from the previous movements. The Four Pieces are 20 years more recent, but explore similar territory in a more extended, structurally integrated span. Beginning with nervous minimalist gestures, unexpectedly inflected by quarter-tones, the first piece gradually adds all the pitches of the chromatic scale - except that they're not, on account of the doppleresque pitch-shifts. This is abruptly replaced by the insect chirps of the second movement, which evolve into enigmatic little pointillist ostinati. A short motoric 'scherzo' follows, then a quarter-tonal lament, embedded in group glissandi. The Two Pieces, written to celebrate Szymanowski's centenary but without obvious connection to his music (the processes used are much more reminiscent of Lutoslawski), consist of a vigorous, grindingly energetic first movement, then a much longer, lamenting second, wIth quarter-tones, then an accumulating texture of wider intervals, then trills and glissandi, before settling into a kind of tonally based resolution. Mykietyn's quartet makes much use of harmonics and microtones - so much so that when conventionally tuned and played material emerges, it sounds alien and strange. After a while, an imitation of a bagpipe, and an ornamented melodic line over a drone accompaniment take over, before a cascade of glass-harmonica-like bell sounds bring the piece to a sparkling close. Royal String Quartet.