(arr. J. Koffler)
Agnieszka Duczmal, cond; Amadeus Ch O of the Polish R
POLSKIE RADIO 084 (77:30)
The music of few composers lends itself to transcription as readily and fluently as Bach’s. Here we have another musical offering in the form of a transcription of the
for strings and four winds (flute, oboe, English horn, bassoon), created by one Józef Koffler (1896-1944), a Polish-Jewish composer from Lvov upon commission from Hermann Scherchen. I quote from Maciej Gotab’s booklet notes: “It was written in Lvov, most probably in the late 1930s, and was later forgotten by both musicologists and musicians as a consequence of the war and the composer’s own tragic fate. The manuscript…was, until 1995, missing from all the catalogues of the first Polish dodecaphonist’s works….it was rediscovered in 1994 by Maciej Gotab in the Hermann Scherchen archive” in Berlin. The first performance was given in Warsaw in 2000 by the musicians on this recording. The “Amadeus” Chamber Orchestra of the Polish Radio has been in existence since 1968, when its present music director, Agnieszka Duczmal (Poland’s best-known female conductor), still a student, founded an ensemble that went by several other names before taking its present name in 1977.
The performance on this release is listed as having been recorded as far back as February 2001. Why it had to wait so long for release is a mystery (I can find no reference to a previous issue), especially as it is so good in every respect—the playing, the sound, and not least Koffler’s rendition. Transparency is the keynote of the transcription, buoyancy the keynote of the playing. Koffler’s transcription is for string quintet and winds, but of course there is no harm done by expanding the string section (there are 18 players here). There is a refreshing lightness to the touch, a sense of joy in the playing and a constant stream of lyricism achieved through a wide variety of articulations, nuances of color, elegant phrasing, and tasteful use of crescendos and decrescendos. Through a constant shift of instrumentation, tedium never sets in across the span of 30 variations (each with its own track number). Some of the variations are even for winds alone. The playing is a delight from beginning to end. Even period-instrument purists may be seduced.