Thursday, November 24, 2016

Rafał Grząka/Atom String Quartet – Atom Accordion Quintet (2016)

Rafał Grząka/Atom String Quartet

Rafał Grząka - accordion
Dawid Lubowicz - violin
Mateusz Smoczyński - violin
Michał Zaborski - viola
Krzysztof Lenczowski - cello

Atom Accordion Quintet


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish ensemble Atom Accordion Quintet, which comprises of accordionist Rafał Grząka and the renowned string quartet called Atom String Quartet (violinists Dawid Lubowicz and Mateusz Smoczyński, violist Michał Zaborski and cellist Krzysztof Lenczowski). Together they perform four contemporary Classical compositions by young Polish composers: Mikołaj Majkusiak, Piotr Wróbel, Krzysztof Lenczowski and Nikola Kołodziejczyk. While the works by the Majkusiak and Wróbel are single-piece compositions, the work by Lenczowski is a four-part Quintet and the work by Kołodziejczyk is three-part suite. The album was released simultaneously on two Polish labels: Requiem Records and DUX Records

As much as I appreciate the need to expose young composers, which this album is all about, somehow I felt a bit disappointed when the music was over. Contemporary Classical music can be, and often is challenging and groundbreaking but this album has little of these qualities. The sound of accordion and a string quartet works together well but was already explored before, and although the musicians are top class, but the music itself just fails to make a strong impression. Even the music by Lenczowski, who writes wonderful music in the Jazz idiom, somehow does not present his usual excellence here, being simply too conventional, even if it is beautifully melodic and gracefully melancholic. An example of the lack of originality is the very last track on this album (by Kołodziejczyk), which sounds almost exactly like music by Astor Piazzolla with string quartet. Somehow the entire album invokes a kind of a déjà vu symptom.

The album is supposed to offer, according to the enclosed booklet, an amalgam of Classical Music, Folklore and Jazz. There is Classical music in abundance, there are some Folkloristic motifs, but there is certainly no Jazz at all, as there is obviously no improvisation involved since all the music is strictly written. This of course is not a problem by itself, but simply an unnecessary confusion.

Obviously the album has its positive sides as well: a profound European aesthetics, wonderful performances by all five musicians, who are obviously virtuosic players, an excellent recording and sound quality and elegant packaging that includes informative bilingual liner notes. Overall this is a well done and original presentation of contemporary Polish Classical Music, which can be enjoyed by many Classical Music connoisseurs anywhere in the world and serve as a wonderful calling card of Polish Culture.

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