Warsaw Autumn 2006 – II

The first concert of String Quartets was really quite overwhelming.  It’s quite a lot of information to take in for one concert, but very interesting to hear so many different composers’ use of the same ensemble.

The pieces that were on the concert were:

  • Grazyna Bacewicz – String Quartet No. 4
  • Witold Lutoslawski – String Quartet
  • Krzysztof Penderecki – String Quartet No. 2
  • Krzysztof Penderecki – String Quartet No. 1
  • Tadeusz Baird – Play for string quartet
  • Zygmunt Krauze – String Quartet No. 3
  • Krzysztof Meyer – String Quartet No. 12
  • Andrzej Panufnik – String Quartet No. 2 “Messages”
  • Pawel Szymanski – Five Pieces for String Quartet
  • Andrzej Krzanowski – String Quartet No. 2

Some notes on the pieces:

Bacewicz – sweet, energetic, playful; lovely use of harmonics, fun

Lutoslawski – intense, got into it further into the piece, episodic at first, later very shaped, a projection of what develops more in his later works, ideas here that are not completely keyboard influenced (multiple times, swells, glissandi) (the keyboard thing is related to something else on my mind…),

Penderecki- more violent than intense, feels as if composed with less feeling than construction, some nice moments but somewhat random, some ideas seemed extraneously put in


Penederecki – enjoyed this more than the Quartet No. 2, seemed more shaped, less frantic

Baird – alternating moments of sincere contemplation and gusto

Krauze – long homogenous chord progressions, dominated by grace-note/held-note idea, a paiting in atonal gray color

Meyer – big work but a bit too fatigued to take in at the moment, seemed a bit gray as well


Panufnik – nice piece but there are others of his which I feel more connection to, some of his writing seems to work better in other mediums

Szymanski – nice collection of pieces, each with strong character, very well articulated (was very tired and falling asleep at this point, which is a real shame, and would really like to hear this piece again, as well as to learn more about the composer)

Krzanowski – Big sound, cacophonous and sonoristic, somwhere between Penderecki and Lutoslawski but more leaning towards Lutoslawski, exhausting to listen to at end of concert

Overall, I found that it was a little hard to take in some of the music as the concert progressed as it was just a lot of music.  In some ways it’s a bit unfair as these pieces all could really stand to be listened to on their own or at least with a little more space between pieces to give a chance to reset and contemplate.  It was sort of like being at a gallery and every painting was bumped up against the next one and you had to move through a fixed rate.

The two pieces which I really took notice of most were the the Lutoslawski and the Szymanski.  I’ve long enjoyed Lutoslawski’s work and now am curious to follow up to learn more about Szymanski (who I found out was sitting four seats down from us; crazy sitting here and knowing many composers are around, reminds me of being at Carnegie Hall for one of the “When Morty Met John” concerts and being in the elevator with Merce Cunningham, or when we sat behind Joan La Barbara at the Feldman “String Quartet II” performance).

Speaking of String Quartet II, I was thinking how interesting that after 3.5 hours with intermissions I felt so exhausted, while after 6 hours without intermission of the Feldman I remember feeling very energized, even though it was past midnight!  I think that alot of the pieces in this concert were really quite full with energy. Also, thinking of it, I don’t think I am used to listening to music at that volume for so long, as when I am listening at home or with headphones it generally is not at so loud a volume.

As with the first concert, there’s a lot here for me to think about, as well as just being really nice to hear really well performed modern music. (BTW: The Silesian String Quartet is an excellent group of performers!) Still thinking alot about string articulations and envelopes and how keyboards have dominated perception of music lately…

Tonight, the second half the string quartet marathon!

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