The Music of Paweł Łukowiec

ŁUKOWIEC: Soldiers’ March. Cat’s Sleep Behind a Stove. Dance of Marionettes. Impressions I-III. Passimofon. Ave Maria.* So Little of You.* Breviary IV.* Pieta.* Anamorphosis I. Anamorphosis II+ / Marek Mizera, pno; *Urszula Kryger, mezzo; +Camerata Scholarum, cond Wojciech Zdyb / Dux 1661

 Paweł Łukowiec (b. 1973) is a composer and teacher, a graduate of the Karol Lipiński Music Academy in Wrocław, where he received his Doctorate in Composition, and currently an assistant Professor at the Institute of Musical Education at Jan Kochanowski University.

As one can see, all of these pieces are for piano, most solo but a few with the addition of a mezzo-soprano and one using an orchestra. The opening Soldiers’ March sounds pretty conventional at first, but slowly offbeat rhythmic elements enter into it, some using quite complex fractured rhythms. The same goes for Cat’s Sleep Behind a Stove which suddenly, at about the 50-second mark, moves from its slow, dreamy, tonal world into sudden quick, atonal figures using upward-rising steps, ostensibly to illustrate the cat’s waking up and skittering around.

By this point, one has become accustomed to Łukowiec’s manner of writing for piano, which is to vacillate between tonal and bitonal or atonal passages, starting out in a regular rhythm most of the time but moving into much more complex figures. His Dance of the Marionettes uses odd syncopations from the very beginning. None of these pieces are what you would call deep or emotionally engaging works; they sound like miniatures that one would play as encore pieces.

The tone becomes more serious in the Impressions. Here, there is no attempt to sugar-coat the music with cute tonal melodies, and the harmony is resolutely bitonal from the start.

I was less impressed by the four songs, which are really drippy Romantic music and sung by a really pathetic-sounding mezzo with both a wobble and an ugly timbre. I ended up skipping the last two songs because I just couldn’t take her caterwauling.

With Anamorphosis I we hear some of Łukowiec’s darkest and most penetrating music, an outstanding piece in which he conveys the mood shifts subtly and with excellent use of color in the piano tone. In Anamorphosis II, Łukowiec adds sustained cellos and basses behind the piano for color; a bit later in the piece, the violins also appear holding sustained high chords while the basses now play a slow-moving, dirge-like melody beneath them. A bit later, the tempo picks up as both piano and orchestra become more active, but the string textures remain light and transparent. This is very effective music, indeed the finest pieces on this CD.

Sort of a mixed bag, then. Some of these pieces are interesting, a few are really excellent, but the songs are in one ear and out the other.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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