NOWAKOWSKI Blood, Forgotten. String Quartet Nos 1 & 2
The intense emotional worlds the music of Mark Nowakowski inhabits pay tribute to the struggles and enduring spirit of the Polish people. Each of the four works on this disc probes dark corners, allowing us to enter into private worlds in which despair, anger and hope are conveyed in striking terms. The Polish-American composer evokes dramatic and psychological atmospheres as if Bartók and Shostakovich were looking over his shoulder, but with his own sense of urgency, rhythm and colour.
Two string quartets demonstrate Nowakowski’s skill at plumbing the depths of feeling. In two movements, String Quartet No 1, Songs of Forgiveness, touches upon despair and death through interweaving lines of unflinching passion. The writing is at once fierce, haunting and mystical. Nowakowski employs audio clips and celebrates a noted Polish composer in the equally riveting String Quartet No 2, Grandfather Songs, in memory of Henryk Górecki.
Although the videos that are part of Blood, Forgotten can’t be experienced on this recording, the piece nevertheless makes a gripping impression as performed by violinist Emily Ondracek-Peterson with the electronically engineered violin lines played on an instrument that once resided in a concentration camp. It is followed by the short ‘A uśnijże mi, uśnij’ (‘O sleep for me, sleep’), a traditional lullaby Nowakowski shaped into a song of consoling beauty.
The performances, vivid and articulate, seize the attention. Ondracek-Peterson and her colleagues in the Voxare Quartet are piercingly alert to the expressive needs of Nowakowski’s bold and empathetic art.