Having acknowledged the unique nature of Natalia Jarząbek’s Infinity CD/book project, we must also reveal that, as if this is not enough, she is also involved with another project of equal quality and interest. Apart from her own recordings, her teaching duties and doctoral work at the Krakow* school of music, plus her performance duties with various local orchestras, Jarząbek also occupies the flute chair with a major woodwind quintet, the Cracow* Golden Quintet (CGQ). The group has now issued a recording whose title reflects its contents: Polish Wind Quintets.
Described as: ”. . . a spectacular group of professional orchestral virtuoso soloists who have magically forged an intimate bond of musical understanding” the Quintet includes, apart from Jarząbek on flute, Damian Świst on oboe, Tomasz Sowa on clarinet, bassoonist Małgorzata Wygoda and Konrad Gołda on French horn. All of these hold positions with major Polish orchestras and Sowa is another faculty member at the Krakow School of Music.
In their publicity the CGQ describe their repertoire as including: “. . . mainly works of classical music: from the classical era to the contemporary music. . . “ which includes “Mozart, Ligeti, Ibert, Arnold, Agay, Nielsen, Barber and many others. . . The quintet also performs contemporary music, taking part in world premieres and recordings of 20th and 21st century pieces.” It is a unique repertoire.
Perhaps more significantly, however, “The quintet also specializes in performing and promoting Polish music. The repertoire prepared for participation in the International Polish Music Competition in Rzeszów contains compositions by M. Spisak. T. Szeligowski, G. Bacewicz, T. Paciorkiewicz, W. Kilar. It is constantly expanded with new works by Polish composers – especially those forgotten, rarely presented on concert hall stages – and extremely valuable in the context of Polish national heritage.”
This makes perfect sense as Poland appears to have a very significant music tradition that is worth promoting, and who better to do that than the cream of Polish instrumentalists? They have their work cut out; Wikipedia lists almost one hundred 20th century Polish composers, most of them completely unknown to me, even after a Ph.D. in music history! So there is a considerable PR job to be done on behalf of Polish music. It is to this that the Quintet devotes their debut recording.
The woodwind quintet is a comparatively rare genre compared to other forms. I am told there enough by Polish composers for two CD collections. Perhaps the CGQ’s next CD will finish the job. For this set, however, they have chosen four of the people mentioned in their notes: Spisak, Bacewicz, Paciorkiewicz and Kilar, plus Jósef Świder.
Coming new to this repertoire I found it fresh, often brilliant, a surprising mixture of the neo-classical and the impressionistic. I saw one review criticising CGQ for their choice of material — that the pieces are too similar. But this is not the point. It is true that I tried playing a suite with Mvt I — Allegro — of the Spisak, Mvt. II — Air — of Bacewitcz and the Allegro Scherzando of Paciorkiewicz. Apart from the key relationships it worked quite well. We should not be surprised, all the composers were born within 25 years of each other during the 20th century, and they seem to have steered clear of serialism. Indeed, like jazz musicians, they demonstrate that from a fresh perspective, tonality still has life left in it.
Overall, this is interesting and, yes, entertaining music which makes a valuable contribution to the wind quintet repertoire, not only in Poland. And no one can possibly fault its execution by this up and coming young ensemble. They tear into the material with a sure-footed aplomb that ensures enjoyment of this collection and should encourage us to look forward their next one.
CD Track List
1. Michał Spisak: Wind Quintet: I. Allegro moderato II. Andante III. Andante – Allegro
2. Grazyna Bacewicz: Wind Quintet: I. Allegro II. Air. Andante III. Allegretto IV. Vivo
3. Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz: Wind Quintet: I. Allegro II. Lento III. Allegro scherzando
4. Wojciech Kilar: Wind Quintet: I. Sinfonia II. Scherzo III. Chorale variéeIV. Finale. Rondo
5. Józef Swider: Mini-Quintetto: I. Studio II. Sentimentale III. Intrada e fugato
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