One of the big events of 2017 was the opening of the Hamburg Philharmonie. Krzysztof Urbański and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra gave inaugural concerts there that made a lasting impact on audiences and critics alike. On this occasion, the Polish conductor chose to record one of the works closest to his heart, The Rite of Spring: "Stravinsky invented a new language. For me, The Rite is not a score, but a painting: on each page, I see Matisse, Gauguin, the Fauve painters . . . It’s an explosion of colours, emotions, and surprises too: if you don’t know the piece, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s so suggestive that you don’t need to do all that much with the orchestra, the magic is written into the music. . .
Like his more famous compatriot Krzysztof Penderecki, Poland's Krzysztof Meyer experimented freely with avant-garde musical techniques early in his career before evolving towards more traditional yet still complex and challenging compositional parameters. While he has compiled a large and impressive body of orchestral and vocal work, I find his chamber music most compelling, especially his 12 string quartets, which I rate among the best written during the past four decades.
Inspired early on by the experimental pieces of Krzysztof Penderecki, Radiohead's guitarist and composer Jonny Greenwood has pursued the idea of shaping orchestral sounds in enexpected ways to produce startling and innovative works. Just as Penderecki wrote for conventional instruments and turned dense bands of microtonal dissonances and extended techniques into the agonized cries of Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima and the pulsating roars and shrieks of Polymorphia, Greenwood achieves comparable effects in his multilayered and highly varied orchestral music. The massed harmonies and swooping glissandi of Popcorn Superhet Receiver owe a considerable debt to Threnody, which Greenwood would gladly admit; because the title 48 Responses to Polymorphia openly acknowledges the connection to that work, it is easy to identify Greenwood's raw materials and how he brilliantly reworks them to his purposes. This 2012 release from Nonesuch consists of recordings made with the Aukso Orchestra in Kraków, Poland, with Penderecki conducting his own works and Marek Mos conducting Greenwood's compositions.