GREENWOOD Popcorn Superhet Receivera. 48 Responses to Polymorphia PENDERECKI Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima
Recorded in Kraków after performances in Wrocław by an ensemble from Katowice, this disc combines two works from Krzysztof Penderecki’s radical early phase and two by Jonny Greenwood – who, as Composer in Association with the BBC Concert Orchestra, has created a notable portfolio of concert works this past decade.
Whatever the provenance of a work that started out as the Cage-inspired 8'37", Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima remains an uncompromising assault on the senses and the present account brooks no compromise. Quite a contrast with Greenwood’s Popcorn Superhet Receiver, which builds via juxtaposition of ‘white noise’ and chorale-like harmonies; its central episode deploys pizzicato and col legno techniques to ominous effect, before a final section suggestive of Xenakis in its volatile dynamics and sweeping glissandos, then a sustained emotional apex. This visceral account from AUKSO outshines the softer-grained interpretation on Analekta.
Polymorphia allies its abundant range of sonorities to an oblique humour which became more pronounced in Penderecki’s music over the following decade. Certainly its ‘multiple shapes’ convey an exemplary clarity in this performance, though the final C major chord cannot now be thought of as a provocation. Indeed, it forms the basis of Greenwood’s 48 Responses to Polymorphia (there being 48 strings in both works), unfolding over nine diverse yet cohesive sections in tandem with a Bachian chorale of his own devising, then climaxing in the dense textures of its sixth and seventh sections before the engaging rhythmic impetus of its closing minutes.
The AUKSO Orchestra again impresses with its fearless unanimity and attack, abetted by sound of unsparing immediacy. A pity another Penderecki piece for strings (Kanon or the later Intermezzo) could not have been chosen to extend the modest playing time but this hardly detracts from the qualities of the disc as it stands.