Published on Saturday 10 June 2017
Written by Ken Walton
The Scottish Ensemble’s Eastern Europe Express programme in the Hunterian Museum included, appropriately, a couple of museum pieces – rare examples from Poland’s 20th century musical awakening.
This explorative concert, directed by Polish violinist Bartosz Woroch, centred almost completely on Polish music (including some familiar Chopin and Górecki), though the final stop was in Czech territory, an excitable burst of Dvorak.
The rarities were works by Grażyna Bacewicz (acclaimed as Poland’s first female composer) and Henryk Czyż, both of which oozed simple, immediate charm. Bacewicz’s Concerto for string orchestra, a kind of East European utilitarian Dumbarton Oaks, rang out in this sharply defined performance, a wholesome vibrancy emanating from the transparent constructivism of the opening, through the sadder hues of the Andante, to the chuckling busyness of the final Vivo.
Czyż’s Canzona di Barocco for string orchestra was a more passive, but no less attractive, offering, its loving themes caked in pastiche, its ambient beauty filling the truly resonant performance space.
Surrounding these works, the Ensemble’s opening performance of Górecki’s Three Pieces In Old Style seemed to pre-echo the static language of his well-known third symphony, yet possessed a genuine sparkle in the Holst-like romp of the second movement, and a mystical atmospheric tolling in the opening one.
David Matthews’ arrangement of two Chopin Nocturnes added, almost to the point of enforcement, fresh dimensions to the original piano works. Dvorak’s String Quintet in G gained magnitude in its scoring for string orchestra, but similarly lost some of its crystalline delights in the process.