LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  February 2009

CLASSICAL February 2009

Subject:

Penderecki's transitoriness

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 18 Feb 2009 17:44:39 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (120 lines)

Krzysztof Penderecki

*  Symphony No. 8 "Lieder der Vergaenglichkeit"* (2005)
*  Dies irae^ (1967)
*  Aus den Psalmen Davids (1958)

*Michaela Kaune (soprano)
*Agnieszka Rehlis (mezzo)
*Wojtek Drabowicz (baritone)
^Anna Lubariska (mezzo)
^Ryszard Minkiewicz (tenor)
^Jaroslaw Brek (bass-baritone)
Warsaw National Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra/Antoni Wit.
Naxos 8.570450 Total time: 72:45

Summary for the Busy Executive: When he is good.

Krzysztof Penderecki has written some of the most powerful scores
of the postwar period.  He has also produced bloated, gassy monsters,
apparently when he forgets to trust his musical impulses and gets caught
up in message and philosophy.  The Symphony No.  8, subtitled "Songs of
Transitoriness," is less symphony than extended song cycle for soprano,
mezzo, baritone, and chorus, on texts by Eichendorff, Hesse, Rilke,
Goethe, and others.  It begins well, with a magical setting of Eichendorff's
"Nachts" (at night), and quickly goes downhill from there.  You will
probably forget most, if not all of the other songs.  Furthermore,
Penderecki fails to provide a convincing progression, of poems or of
musical rhetoric.  It's really one thing after another rather than, as
with Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, a purposeful, truly symphonic drive
to some goal.

Penderecki composed Dies irae (day of wrath) for the unveiling at
Auschwitz-Birkenau of the International Monument to the Victims of
Fascism.  I'm a bit ambivalent about the monument, which for me threatens
to turn into a sick joke about hypocrisy.  After all, Poland and Western
Russia saw some of the worst atrocities against Jews as well as, I must
admit, some of the noblest efforts to save Jews.  Any art on the Holocaust
takes huge risks -- the trivialization of unthinkable human horror perhaps
the greatest risk of all.  Penderecki succeeds against the odds, mainly
because he doesn't minimize or sentimentalize the suffering and the
deaths.  The mini-oratorio falls into three movements: "Lamentatio,"
"Apocalypsis," and "Apotheosis." "Lamentatio" sets Holocaust poems by
Polish writers Wladyslaw Broniewski and Tadeusz Rozewitzc, as well as
French poet Louis Aragon's "Auschwitz." It begins in weeping and rises
to uncomprehending screams, like those of animals, who suffer the pain
without speculating about reasons.  Penderecki doesn't pretend to have
answers.  He becomes, more than anything else, a recorder here.

"Apocalypsis" -- using parts of Psalm 116, Revelations (the woes, the
opening of the seals, and the war in heaven), and Aeschylus's Eumenides
-- makes the most use of avant-garde techniques, evoking the Holocaust
not through volume as much as through strangeness.  The Psalmist prays
to God for deliverance from the tortures of hell.  The movement reminds
me of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel figure with his hand over one eye,
horrified by what he sees and unable not to look.  "Apotheosis" continues
with verses from Revelation, Corinthians, and Paul Valery's "Le Cimetiere
marin" (graveyard by the sea), with its heartrending line, "il faut
tenter de vivre!" (let's try to live) repeated at the end.  Again,
Penderecki has no transcendence to offer, resists trying to force moral
epiphany in the wake of the incomprehensible, and winds up with the human
and the genuine.

Adorno famously wondered how anyone with a moral conscience could write
poetry after Auschwitz, and then went on to give one answer to his own
question.  Poetry, ritual, art in general, helps us remember, reminds
those of us not even born at the time that we must touch the suffering
we were lucky to miss first-hand, not only to honor those victims, but
to remain human ourselves.  Penderecki passes that test.

Aus den Psalmen Davids (from the Psalms of David) sets brief excerpts
from the following: Psalm 28 ("To you, Lord, I cry"), Psalm 30 ("I will
exalt you, Lord, for you.  did not choose my enemies over me"), Psalm
43 ("For you are God, my strength.  Why have you rejected me?"), and
Psalm 143 ("Lord, hear my prayer").  This little choral suite helped
introduce Penderecki to the Polish public.  An early work, it shows
fairly clear influences from both Stravinsky and Schoenberg as well as
the seeds of the personal idiom that came to full fruition in Dies irae.
All four of these settings are fairly stark, even Psalm 30, interpreted
by most other composers as celebration, as if Penderecki emphasized the
penitential strain of the poet-king David.  Psalm 43 -- crying, "Why do
I go about in mourning, while the enemy oppresses me?" -- evokes agitation
of the speaker fleeing, running to ground.  The last psalm, however,
gives us a noble end, despite its dissonance, reminiscent in feeling of
the final bars of Schoenberg's De Profundis and Stravinsky's Symphony
of Psalms, a chorale of austere strength in the certainty of God's
promise.

I might as well get my annoyances with this disc out of the way first.
Naxos has provided no texts, and given Penderecki's rather large forces,
nobody's diction can sufficiently cut through to complete intelligibility.
These works' expressive power derives in large part from the texts.
Naxos gives you a URL, but those web pages are woefully incomplete: none
of the Dies irae texts, and the psalms in Latin, when the chorus is
obviously singing in Polish.  I can understand why Naxos hasn't provided
the Polish, but why not English, French, and German?  Fortunately, I
know enough Latin, acquired through a superior public-school education
when the phrase wasn't oxymoronic.

On the other hand, the performers are quite fine, with baritone Wojtek
Drabowicz outstanding.  Drabowicz died in an auto accident about a year
after this recording.  Had he lived, he would have likely broken into
the ranks of opera superstars.  He had a powerful, ringing tone which
sacrificed none of his darker color for brightness, and there seemed
to be no barriers as his expressiveness shot straight into the listener.
He was a fine declaimer of poetry.  I've always thought Antoni Wit
deserved a wider career.  He performs minor miracles of musical perspicuity
in the Eighth and keeps the musical matter from melting entirely into
formless goo.  He almost, but not quite, convinces me that the symphony
is worth a second listen.  The Dies irae and the Psalms, much finer
pieces, receive first-class readings.  It's difficult for me to imagine
that someone will do better any time soon, and at Naxos's price, this
becomes an unbelievable bargain.

Steve Schwartz

             ***********************************************
The CLASSICAL mailing list is powered by L-Soft's renowned LISTSERV(R)
list management software together with L-Soft's HDMail High Deliverability
Mailer for reliable, lightning fast mail delivery.  For more information,
go to:  http://www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager