Penderecki: Ubu Rex

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COMPOSERS: Penderecki
LABELS: Accords
ALBUM TITLE: Penderecki – Ubu Rex
WORKS: Ubu Rex
PERFORMER: Pawel Wunder, Anna Lubanska, Jozef Frakstein, Izabella Klosinska, Piotr NowackiPolish National Opera Chorus & OrchestraJacek Kaspszyk
CATALOGUE NO: ACD 133-2
Alfred Jarry’s anarchic farce Ubu Roi

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tells how a blustering Polish aristocrat,

egged on by his ambitious wife,

bludgeons his way to the throne,

bleeds the country dry, then flees

from the invading Russian army.

Penderecki’s operatic version was

written for Munich in 1991, but

his interest in setting the play goes

back nearly 30 years. One can’t help

imagining what a sensational Ubu

he could have written in the 1960s, a

thud-and-blunder comic counterpart

to The Devils of Loudon. The one

he eventually did write is a much

tamer affair, full of less than pointed

parodies of Wagner, Verdi, Rossini

and Musorgsky, and only rarely, for

example in the climactic battle scene,

working up any real momentum.

The recording was made live in

October 2003 at the work’s Warsaw

premiere. There’s a lot of stage noise,

including a continuous rumble, and

singers sometimes disappear offmike.

But under the circumstances,

the performance is amazingly tight,

with a large cast confidently led by

Pawel Wunder and Anna Luban´ska

as the appalling Pa and Ma Ubu and

Piotr Nowacki as the double turncoat

Bordure, and choral and orchestral

contributions which generate as

much excitement as the piece allows.

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Anthony Burton