Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 10
This disc won a 2013 Grammy award in the rather strange category of “Best Classical Compendium”. What does that mean? This is simply a Penderecki disc. I mean, is a Beethoven symphony disc a “compendium” because it has more than one track? Or is it only a compendium if it includes an overture? This seems to be just another example of NARAS inventing categories so as to hand out more awards—not that this disc isn’t deserving. Indeed, any of Antoni Wit’s Penderecki recordings for Naxos deserves recognition: they are uniformly superb. So I’m glad this exemplar won even if the category is just a bit, shall we say, artificial?
I also wonder how many members of NARAS who voted for this disc actually listened to it (or anything in the classical category, for that matter). This collection—excuse me, compendium—contains some of the composer’s gnarliest music. Fonogrammi, Anaklasis, Partita, and De natura sonoris I consist almost entirely of noise—often wonderful, imaginative noise, but noise nonetheless. When listening to De natura sonoris I, for example, I was so captivated by a strange percussive sound that I went back to listen to it again—only to find it missing. Turns out on closer examination that it was the ice maker in my refrigerator dumping cubes into the hopper. It fit perfectly into the texture of the piece. Indeed, if Mr. Penderecki is listening, I strongly recommend that he consider scoring his next work for a Bosch side-by-side refrigerator-freezer with automatic ice dispenser in the freezer door. It’s amazingly musical.
The Awakening of Jacob shows the composer on his way to the “romantic revival” of his later work, while the Horn Concerto of 2008 is drop-dead gorgeous, one of the few masterpieces in the medium (wonderfully played by soloist Jennifer Montone). Frankly, from this distance, even the avant-garde pieces aren’t at all difficult to take, but that still doesn’t lead me to believe that many NARAS members actually were paying attention. So chalk it up to a happy coincidence, and all joking aside, if you really care about classical music, get this stunningly played and recorded disc, as well as the others in this important and worthy series.
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: This One
- PENDERECKI, KRZYSZTOF:Fonogrammi for Flute and Chamber Orchestra; The Awakening of Jacob; Anaklasis; De natura sonoris I; Partita for Harpsichord, Electric Guitar, Bass Guitar, Harp, Double bass, & Orchestra; Horn Concerto "Winterreise"