Penderecki: Music for Chamber Orchestra

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COMPOSERS: Penderecki
WORKS: Sinfonietta; Serenade; Three Pieces in Baroque Style; Paradise Lost – Adagietto; Requiem – Agnus Dei; Intermezzo; Seven Gates of Jerusalem – De Profundis
PERFORMER: Albrecht Mayer (cor anglais); Sinfonia Varsovia/Krzysztof Penderecki


 This disc brings together works by Penderecki for small string orchestra – augmented by Albrecht Mayer’s singing cor anglais in a new version of the solemn 1979 Adagietto for the opera Paradise Lost. It’s a pity Mayer didn’t also play the 1965 Capriccio for oboe and strings, because there’s a shortage of music from the composer’s most exciting period of experimental soundscapes: as it is, there’s just the 1973 Intermezzo, full of slithering quarter-tone scales.

For the rest, there are arrangements of choral music, the Agnus Dei from the Polish Requiem and the ‘De profundis’ from the symphony Seven Gates of Jerusalem; the early Three Pieces in Baroque Style, no more than easy-listening pastiche, and the more subtly neo-baroque Chaconne of 2005; and two 1990s works, the Sinfonietta (with three soloists), which never seems to get off the ground, and the Serenade, in two slow movements which generate rather more intensity.  


The performances, conducted with authority by the composer, are generally good, though the first violins are occasionally caught out in high exposed lines. The recording flatters everything with generous resonance. The booklet note is short on information and long on adulation, which seems excessive for this pleasant but hardly ground-breaking anthology. Anthony Burton