A Panufnik: Hommage à Chopin; String Quartets Nos 1-3

Dóry Ombódi, Sławomir Rozlach; Apollon Musagète Quartett (Fryderyk Chopin Institut)

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CDNIFCCD 059_Panufink_cmyk

A Panufnik Hommage à Chopin; String Quartets Nos 1-3
Dóry Ombódi (flute), Sławomir Rozlach (double bass); Apollon Musagète Quartett
Fryderyk Chopin Institute NIFCCD 059
71:10 mins

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From Szymanowski to Górecki, Polish composers have made some of the richest contributions to the string quartet repertoire of the 20th century. Among the most distinctive quartets of all are the three by Andrzej Panufnik who, though perhaps more often thought of as a symphonist, was clearly very much at home in the medium. Indeed, it’s tempting to think of the Quartet No. 2 as his most perfect masterpiece. All three sound deeply Polish, yet all were written (between 1976 and 1990) in Panufnik’s English exile. The second, entitled Messages, harks back to his childhood pastime of putting an ear to wooden telegraph poles, and the quartet medium seems ideally suited to evoking the sounds produced by wires vibrating in the wind. The effect of this single-span work is hypnotic, especially in the hands of Poland’s young Apollon Musagète Quartett, who convey all its originality.

One of his last works, the Quartet No. 3 was written following Panufnik’s visit to the newly free Poland; its title, Paper-cuts, invokes a traditional Polish craft while also reflecting the composer’s geometrical preoccupation. The dynamism of this performance is captured in superb sound. The disc opens in inspired fashion with a new version of Panufnik’s Hommage à Chopin, originally composed for voice and piano for the 1949 centenary of Chopin’s death. Panufnik’s later arrangement for flute and string orchestra gets a new lease of life here in chamber form and in a performance – with Dóry Ombódi’s flute contributing an otherworldly voice – of bittersweet beauty.

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John Allison