Penderecki is the same age as Górecki. In their native Poland, both composers have always been regarded equally highly, but Penderecki won fame abroad when he was still young, whereas Górecki has had to wait until his late fifties.
Penderecki’s two string quartets of 1960 and 1968 – both single movements, under seven and 11 minutes respectively – show his early style at its most expressionistically direct. Music relying so much on frisson is hard to sustain, and in the mid-Seventies Penderecki discovered tonality and 19th-century Romanticism, which he embraced without even a hint of irony. The two most recent works on this disc show another, less spectacular shift to a mildly chromatic style with which Bartók might have felt at home. In the String Trio of 1991 it seems rather faded and worn, but the Quartet for clarinet and string trio, written only last year, is much fresher; the slow final movement is particularly beautiful and very well played, especially by the fine young clarinettist, who has a lovely tone, which he controls with great finesse. Adrian Jack