The Cracow Golden Quintet Plays Polish Works

cover DUX1685

SPISAK: Quintet for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon & Horn. BACEWICZ: Quintet for Wind Instruments. PACIORKIEWICZ: Quintet for Flute etc. KILAR: Wind Quintet. ŚWIDER: Mini-Quintetto / Cracow Golden Quintet / Dux 1685

The Cracow (or Krakow) Golden Quintet was formed in 2015 of graduates of Polish academies who are soloists and members of different orchestras or chamber ensembles. Its members are flautist Natalia Jarząbek, oboist Damian Świst, clarinetist Tomas Sowa, bassoonist Małgorzata Wygoda and hornist Konrad Gołda. Here they pay tribute to five of their national composers, of which the only one I am familiar with is Grazyna Bacewicz.

Michal Spisak’s quintet opens whimsically, reminding one of Françaix’s well-known wind quintet: lots of staccato phrases played by the flute and clarinet while the horn and bassoon lumber along in a jolly fashion underneath. The harmony is also reminiscent of the Françaix work; it might have influenced this one. Spisak, the shortest-lived of the composers represented here (he died at age 51), did study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, so it’s possible. Except for the fact that Gołda plays the horn with a somewhat muffled sound, all five musicians have excellent tones and play with enthusiasm.

The Bacewicz Quintet, an early work (1932), is also surprisingly light in character, using similarly bouncing rhythms and motifs. But you know what? The quintet by Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz is in the same style, too.

This is a serious fault in programming. The Cracow Quintet really should have found works in different styles to intersperse on this CD, not pieces all in the same vein (and tempo, and sometimes even the same keys). You can’t just give your audience a sequence of musical candies; you need to serve up something a little more substantial in between as a contrast. The quintet by Wojciech Kilar is a bit more varied in harmony and melodic construction, but the rhythmic framework remains the same: jolly, ebullient, and quite frankly, lacking substance.

The Cracow Golden Quintet consists of fine technicians, but beyond playing jolly little quintets it’s hard to judge from this album how good they are as interpreters.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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