Sunday, December 14, 2014

Grazyna Auguscik Orchestar – Inspired By Lutoslawski (2014)

Grażyna Auguścik Orchestar

Grażyna Auguścik - vocals
Jan Smoczyński Trio
Janusz Prusinowski Trio
Atom String Quartet

Inspired By Lutosławski

FOR TUNE 0044



By Adam Baruch

This extraordinary album is a superb example of intelligent contemporary music, which is completely unlimited by the imaginary bounds set up by genres and other labeling concepts. Polish vocalist Grażyna Auguścik embarked on this ambitious project with the help of some of the most important musicians on the Polish scene, who cover a wide scope of stylistic spheres including Classical Music, Folklore and Jazz, all of which have been already visited by her during her prolific career.

The music combines Polish Folk songs and the work of the esteemed Polish modern Classical composer Witold Lutosławski, which were based on or inspired by Polish Folklore. Lutosławski, like all the composers living and working behind the Iron Curtain, was forced (directly or indirectly) by the regimes ruling Eastern Europe at the time, to include folkloristic motives in his compositions, often completely artificially and against all aesthetic or compositional reasoning. The refusal to do so would effectively mean an artistic ban by the authorities and in extreme cases political persecution. The compositions included here were created by Lutoslawski in the 1950s, the most oppressive period in the Socialist era, and for many years thereafter were considered as his less important and definitely less appreciated works. However, in retrospect the composer's genius obviously overcame the obstacles and this music turns out to be a completely relevant component of his grand legacy.

Auguścik combined forces with the brilliant keyboardist/composer/arranger Jan Smoczyński, who was entrusted with the enormous task of arranging all the music, both the Classical and Folklore pieces, and than participate in the recording, as well as being the sound engineer, since the recording took place in his now legendary Studio Tokarnia, with spectacular sonic results, as usual in his case. In many respects this album is as much a credit to Auguścik as it is to Jan Smoczyński. The research of the Polish Folklore as well as the leadership of the ensemble performing the folk songs was left in the hands of violinist Janusz Prusinowski.

Overall twelve musicians take part in the entire project in addition to Auguścik, who sings the lead vocals: the Jan Smoczyński Trio (with bassist Wojciech Pulcyn, drummer Tomasz Waldowski and vocalist Sylwia Smoczyńska), the Janusz Prusinowski Trio (with clarinetist Michał Żak, percussionist Piotr Piszczatowski and bassist Piotr Zgorzelski) and Poland's most celebrated string quartet, the Atom String Quartet (violinists Dawid Lubowicz and Mateusz Smoczyński, violist Michał Zaborski and cellist Krzysztof Lenczowski).

The album comprises of twelve pieces (and a radio edit bonus), ranging from "pure" folklore songs, which were the original songs upon which Lutoslawski based his compositions, to more arranged pieces of folk songs and Lutosławski's pieces performed by the ensemble and finally to a quite Jazzy songs based on folkloristic motifs. In spite of the variety and wealth of the musical material the album creates a coherent and aesthetically pleasing outcome, which is a music connoisseur's wet dream. The beautiful arrangements, passionate performance and depth of respect for the Polish musical tradition and legacy are all combined herein with truly spectacular results.

Auguścik takes a step back from the limelight on this album, preferring to play the role of an integrator rather than the leading person. She sings beautifully, as always, but with less spectacular attitude, almost leaving out completely her Jazzy improvisations and vocalese acrobatics, which are her trademarks. This is a very courageous artistic decision, for which she deserves a lot of respect.

There is no doubt that this is definitely one of the most important and beautiful albums released in Poland in 2014, a "complete" multi-layered, multi-faced effort involving the talents of many wonderful musicians and setting a golden standard for future projects, which will be very difficult to match end even more so to rise above. Polish music scene and Polish Culture is glorified by this project, which should make all Poles proud. Being realistic, however, it will probably reach only e very limited scope of listeners, which of course is tragic. My deepest thanks to everybody involved in this project for the pleasure it causes to this humble listener.

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