Penderecki Strings Captivate

by Stuart Culver

From first to last note, the Penderecki String Quartet held the audience in their spell in the last concert of the year, Feb 24, for the South Okanagan Concert Society. Opening with Beethoven’s String Quartet in G major, they performed the sprightly dance-like introduction with a delicate formality, in keeping with its nickname, ‘The Compliments Quartet’, portraying the exaggerated courtesy of an 18th century drawing salon. The second movement features a languorous melody leading to bursts of song, cut by expectant silences. The galloping rhythms of the Scherzo moved to a faster tempo in the final movement where each instrument in turn picked up the melody, ending with the fierce energy we associate with Beethoven.

The second composition, De Profundis, by young Canadian composer Norbert Palej, was commissioned and premiered by PSQ. Jerzy Kaplanek, 2nd violin, spoke of the composer’s impetus, drawing inspiration from Psalm 130 and Oscar Wilde’s ‘De Profundis” written in Reading Gaol. Violent percussive and staccato effects built on dissonances and the sheer physicality of the violinists drew enthusiastic applause from the Oliver audience; the musicians told us that not all audiences are as accepting of innovative styles. The piece started on a shattering unison note and ended on a single dying note, after high bird-like trills, reinforcing the notion of rising from the depths of despair. Perhaps appropriate as Oliver prepares to welcome a prison.

Debussy’s String Quartet, his only one, offered a contrast to the first half. The violinists switched positions and 2nd Jeremy Bell told about the influence of the Javanese gamelon which Debussy heard at the 1889 Paris Exposition. A simple melody recurred in different ways: the dream-like quality quickly moved from soft to strident, with ever changing rhythms and harmonies. The soft, sad and slow intro of the cello in the final movement built to a crescendo of excitement and ended with a whisper.

But the audience wanted more and the musicians obliged with an unbelievably fast little piece, with bow percussion by Erwin Schulhoff, a Czech composer. Truly, the Penderecki musicians demonstrate “a remarkable range of technical excellence and emotional sweep” Globe & Mail).

Another successful year has ended for the South Okanagan Concert Society. The 2012-13 season is planned, with the AGM on April 10 at Quail’s Nest Arts Centre. Early-bird discount tickets (bargain prices, free for students) are available now at Imperial Office Pro in Osoyoos and Beyond Bliss in Oliver.

2 thoughts on “Penderecki Strings Captivate

Comments are closed.