Recently Spotted: Meyer’s Double Cto and 7th Symphony on DUX
As promised, I’m continuing the “recently spotted” overview. DUX has released a new disc in their Krzysztof Meyer series (previous releases were a two-disc set of quintets – piano and clarinet, and a disc of various concertos – clarinet, violin and cello). It contains two very recent pieces: a Symphony (no. 7) from 2002-03 and a Double Concerto (violin and cello) from 2005-06. The catalogue number is DUX 0695.
Performers are Magdalena Rezler-Niesiołowska (violin), Julius Berger (cello) and the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gabriel Chmura and Łukasz Borowicz, respectively.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I think that Krzysztof Meyer is one of the greatest Polish composers alive today. His string quartet cycle is a towering achievement that can proudly stand next to the best the 20th century has produced. He’s also active as a musicologist and music theorist (with theory of composition at the center of his interests, obviously). He teaches composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne.
He has written an important book on Dmitri Shostakovich (whom he had corresponded with for many years and had visited several times as well – an account of this friendship forms the afterword to the book, perhaps the most interesting and touching part of the whole). Meyer has also written a completion of Shostakovich’s Gogolian opera The Gamblers (produced in Wuppertal in 1983 and Poznan in 2005, recorded with the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie under Michail Jurowski and released on Capriccio). While it would be difficult to pinpoint any Shostakovichian influences in Meyer’s earliest compositions which were closer in idiom to the avantgarde (though, except for a select few, they can’t really be called avantgarde works per se), there might be a Shostakovichian air in his post-1970s pieces in which he attains a more balanced, “synthetic” musical style, where sonoristic considerations are subordinated to other elements. The link to Shostakovich seems especially evident in the chamber pieces, such as the string quartets or the piano trio.
Meyer has also co-written (with his wife, the musicologist Jadwiga Gwizdalanka) a two-volume monograph devoted to the life and work of Witold Lutosławski. I feel that his music is extremely closely related to Lutosławski’s, though there are of course differences, some of them glaringly obvious (chamber music certainly seems to be one of Meyer’s main interests, while it was more of a sideline in Lutosławski’s output). The link is very personal here again, since Meyer took private composition lessons from Lutosławski.
There is also an eddy of strictly “postmodern”, playful pieces in Meyer’s output: modern attempts at old composing techniques. I mean pieces such as Caro Luigi for 4 cellos and string orchestra (a sort of Boccherini pastiche) or Symphony in the Style of Mozart (great fun, not least due to the way it is built out of Mozart quotations). Meyer has developed an interesting personal concept of musical form (drama), made up of 5 phases, which he employs in his own compositions.
This is a disc I’m certainly getting at some point and once I do, I might return to it on these pages.