Monday, June 3, 2013
Zbigniew Bargielski String Quartets: Striking a Balance
Silesian String Quartet
This 2-disc set present the six string quartets (and two works for string quartet plus one) by Polish composer Zbigniew Bargielski. Bargielski writes in a highly personal form of atonality, one that to my ears sounds similar to fellow countryman Henryk Gorecki in his early works. Bargielski's developed what he calls a "theory of center structures" that gives his composition direction. The idea is to balance the center sounds (melodies) with those of the harmonic centers, paying attention to dynamics, tonal color and duration.
One of the most effective works in this collection is "A Night of Farewells," for accordion and string quartet. I found it especially appealing because of the ensemble's interesting blend. The accordion doesn't playing anything remotely folk-like, yet it gives the work a decided Eastern European flavor. The clarinet in "Through the Looking Glass "(for string quartet with clarinet) also has a similar effect. Bargielski give the clarinet an aggressive sound and has it bending pitches that sound Klezmer-inspired.
At first hearing, the six string quartets seem remarkably similar. Only after living with the music for a while could I hear the gradual development of Bargielski's musical language from work to work as he explored the possibilities of his center structure concept. Make no mistake: this is difficult listening. But the music holds rewards for the thoughtful and attentive listener.
Bargielski's compositions are especially well-suited to the SACD format. His careful balancing of musical centers is done with precision and delicacy. Subtle changes in timbre and articulation that are lost on the CD version are easily heard on the SACD version.