HANNA KULENTY: Music 4: GG Concerto (2009) for harpsichord and string orchestra; Music for Roy (2010) for mixed choir and chamber orch.; Breathe (1987) for strings; Sinequan Forte B (1994) for amplified cello and ch. orch. – Gośka Isphording, harpsichord/, Bartosz Koziak, cello/ Wrocław Philharmonic Choir/ Wroclaw Chamber Orch. Leopoldinum/ Ernst Kovacic – Dux DUX 0823, 64 min. [Distr. by Qualiton] *****:
Each of Hanna Kulenty’s quartet of spectacular pieces takes off in unexpected directions and with uncompromising attitudes, often reaching hallucinogenic altitudes. The tonal cinematic toolkit on which Kulenty draws encompasses a brilliant array of resources: opening turgid gloom turns into raindrops of sound which branch off excitingly in other directions, using different instruments of the orchestra as well as the orchestra massed to accomplish these and other means. The effect verges on loony tunes at times, as when chromatic runs are answered in an ongoing dialogue first by shrieks in the strings and then by postured dancing up a steep spiral staircase on spiky heels while rustling petticoats. The narrative pulses with rhythmic energy; there are no real transitions: one section follows another with no real apparent reason. And then Kulenty hits you with a new device you had never imagined, and you have to listen to every note of a dialogue between veiled strings and a harpsichord out of The Prisoner. And this is all in the GG (for G major & G major) Concerto. Each of the four pieces has its own character and merits; Sinequan Forte B, for example, features incessant rubbing together between the solo cello and strings which becomes an addictive aural exercise, particularly in trying to identify one from the other.
If pressed for explanations beyond technical obfuscation, the stiffly-translated liner notes are not much help. For example, about the prizewinning Breathe, 12 creepy minutes which I would not like to listen to alone at night, Kulenty recalls, “One part of the prize was some money with which I bought a pair of new shoes and a winter coat.”
I listened to this intense music both on a conventional box speaker setup, on which the music sounded superb, and on a pair of Shure SRH940 headphones which recreated the most amazing convincing space between my ears. The Shures were made for music like Kulenty’s which demands pinpoint accuracy, razor sharp response, an ability to handle tremendous size and impact without cracking, and the fine tuning to capture the kaleidoscope of colors composed by Kulenty and created by the Wroclaw Orchestra. Highlighted by a staggeringly audiophile timpani moment halfway through Music for Roy, the recorded sound is both sumptuous and spatially clear throughout.
French Romantic and Impressionism… Ivan Ilich