G—recki, Shostakovich, Bacewicz, Szymanowski, Kilar

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Bacewicz,Gorecki,Kilar,Shostakovich,Szymanowski
LABELS: Conifer
ALBUM TITLE: Collection
WORKS: Piano Concerto; Three Pieces in Old Style; Shostakovich: Chamber Symphony; Bacewicz: Concerto for Strings; Szymanowski: Etude (arr. Duczmal); Kilar: Orawa
PERFORMER: Anna Górecka (piano), Amadeus CO/ Agnieska Duczmal
CATALOGUE NO: CDCF 246 DDD
Górecki’s two-movement, nine-minute Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings (1980) can be played on the piano, as it is here by the composer’s daughter. But its incessant minimalism and surprisingly neo-classical touches – at speeds unusually fast for Górecki – really need the timbres of the intended instrument. The unstable recording, with the soloist well to the fore, doesn’t help. Surprisingly, the original isn’t currently available on CD.

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This string-based release is more than half Polish. There are plenty of rival recordings of Górecki’s Three Pieces in Old Style, but this one is admirably atmospheric, if a trifle wayward. Wojciech Kilar’s Orawa is an entertaining illustration of another Polish composer’s attempts to combine folk music and minimalism. Szymanowski’s early Etude in B flat minor for piano is given in a sensitive string orchestra version. And Grazyna Bacewicz’s Concerto for String Orchestra (1948) delivers neo-classical wit, charm and occasional passion.

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It’s hard to beat Rudolf Barshai’s own account, on DG, of his arrangement of Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet, which goes under the title Chamber Symphony: this Polish orchestra’s performance lacks insight, and sometimes security; the recording, as throughout the disc, lacks focus. The collection is more valuable as an introduction to some lesser-known, immediately accessible, 20th-century Polish music than for the Piano Concerto and Chamber Symphony singled out on the case’s spine. Keith Potter