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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Penderecki Szymanowski Panufnik String Quartets, Atma Quartet

Combine an excellent string quartet with three neglected gems in the Modern Polish repertoire and you really have something. That is what is going on with the auspicious debut of the Atma Quartet and their Penderecki Szymanowski Panufnik String Quartets (Accord ACD 252-2). We hear three very individual works brought to our senses with care, skill and devotion for a very happy result.

We may not think especially of these three composers in terms of the string quartet configuration, and that perhaps accounts for the surprise I at least felt once I recognized in hearing the high musical offerings this program represents. With Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) we hear his 1927 String Quartet No. 2 Op. 56, for Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991) we get his String Quartet No. 3 "Paper Cuts." Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933) chimes in appropriately with the worthwhile 2008 String Quartet No. 3 "Leaves of an Unwritten Diary."

There is no mistaking the dramatic Modern character and Polish atmospherics of each of these works. The Atma Quartet themselves put it nicely in the liners-- "It is the courage with which bold, compositional concepts are implemented on the one hand, and the enthralling vitality of Polish folklore that lies at the core of our cultural heritage on the other." So indeed do we experience a happy conjoining of the local with the temporally advanced, the new times and their expression combined with deep folkways.

There are strikingly intimate, introspective elements at play throughout as well as a highly engaging extroverted dash to be heard in ways any student of our times might appreciate. Poetic expression and a wealth of string-sounding techniques are key factors at play throughout. The Atma Quartet bring out the beautifully conceived articulation of each movement with a sureness and a telling sympathy that affords us pause, then delight and satisfaction.

Clearly the Atma Quartet give notice on their debut album. The works are essential listening and the quartet members all excel as state-of-the-art practitioners, masters of color and expression. Molto bravo!

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