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ATOM STRING QUARTET ~ PENDERECKI
FILHARMONIA SZCZECIN 008 (Barcode: 602508182679) ~ POLAND ~ Jazz-Classical Fusion

Recorded: 2019 Released: 2019

Despite the fact that the Atom String QuartetFind albums by this artist is one of the most household names on the Polish music scene in the last decade since their inception in 2010, this is surprisingly only the fifth album released under the quartet´s moniker. However, the still relatively young members of the quartet: violinists Dawid LubowiczFind albums by this artist and Mateusz SmoczynskiFind albums by this artist, violist Michal ZaborskiFind albums by this artist and cellist Krzysztof LenczowskiFind albums by this artist, already amassed a most impressive recording legacy of over thirty albums, covering a broad stylistic range, in which they participated either individually or collectively, and which is a most impressive achievement for just one decade by any standard.

The essence of the Atoms (as the quartet is fondly referred to by the locals) is perhaps mostly characterized by the dichotomy (imaginary of not) between their Classical roots and other musical idioms, Jazz in particular, in which they were involved with so far. This album is not their first encounter with contemporary Polish Classical Music of course and followers of the Atoms are already familiar with their treatments of works by Witold LutoslawskiFind albums by this artist, but at the same time also with their interpretations of music by Polish Jazz Giants such as Krzysztof KomedaFind albums by this artist or Zbigniew SeifertFind albums by this artist, not ignoring the original compositions by the quartet members, which often dance on the thin wire stretched over the chasm dividing "serious" music from the rest of the world.

Polish Jazz and the musicians involved with the genre display an obvious obsession with Polish Classical Music, by far more evident and noticeable than any other local European Jazz scene. One might speculate if this is a result of the inferiority complex, which many Jazz musicians suffer from, cultivated by the music education establishment ruled by Classical Music fanatics, or by the love of Polish musical tradition (your guess is as good as mine), but the fact is that the amount of Polish Jazz albums dealing with music of Frederic ChopinFind albums by this artist (just as an example) is staggering if not to say ridiculous.

Maestro Krzysztof PendereckiFind albums by this artist is of course quite a different pair of galoshes; his brilliant music is always challenging and intricate, and the fact that some of the Polish Jazz musicians are willing to tackle this difficult subject is a proof not only of their phenomenal technical / virtuosic skills but more importantly their intellectual faculties. The first serious and a most passionate treatment of Penderecki´s work was undertaken in the recordings by Polish Jazz pianist Piotr OrzechowskiFind albums by this artist (a.k.a. PianohooliganFind albums by this artist), such as "Experiment: PendereckiFind albums with this title" or "24 Preludes & ImprovisationsFind albums with this title", and this album is a most welcome follow up on the same ambitious path.

The music selected for this album concentrates mostly on early works (from 1950s and 1960s but also more recent compositions), chamber and solo pieces for wind instruments and the lovely music composed for the 1965 Polish movie "The Saragossa Manuscript" (which I remember seeing in the cinema accompanied by the leading actor Zbigniew CybulskiFind albums by this artist, who smuggled me in – I was under aged then). All the string arrangements were done by the quartet members of course.

The decision to concentrate on the early works, which obviously are less Avant-Garde oriented than the Maestro´s later compositions, and also less grandiose, is one of factors contributing to success of the project. Obviously the huge scale orchestral works would have been almost impossible to transcribe onto the string quartet format, or perhaps the Atoms plan further explorations of Penderecki´s music, which will cover later works. The future will tell.

One might ponder if this music has any relationship to Jazz? Well, on the face of it, there is very little, if anything, that might strike a Jazz fan as "familiar". The arrangements are kept well within the Classical Music idiom, staying authentic and close to the source, with no obvious improvisation element, which is considered crucial for Jazz. But when examined more closely the music is definitely Jazzy in spirit even if less so in body, which means that this music crosses the genre boundaries in the listener´s head rather than within the recorded notes. Confused? Great!

Overall, this is definitely a beautiful piece of Art, divinely conceived and executed by Masters of the trade. Sublime music and musicianship of the highest class and above all uncompromising and challenging and yet accessible to any open minded music lover. Of course one expects nothing less from the Atoms these days, which is the price to be paid for Fame and Glory.

As somebody who stood behind these wonderful musicians from day one and every step of the way, it is enormously satisfying to see them being able to grow continuously and stay forever restless. God speed!
Updated: 21/09/2019Posted: 21/09/2019CD 1 Digipak Recommend To A Friend

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