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St Magnus Festival, Orkney
Rowena Smith - guardian.co.uk
Polish music and musicians featured prominently at this year's St Magnus festival as part of the nationwide Polska! Year celebration of Polish culture. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Hebrides Ensemble programmed LutosÅ‚awski, the Royal String Quartet performed Szymanowski's First Quartet while pianist Ewa Kupiec presented works by    's most famous composer, Chopin.
Kupiec is a formidable pianist: her approach to Chopin was characterised by fire and fury. A blistering account of the C sharp minor Scherzo was relentless in its intensity but clean in delivery. The pyrotechnics continued in a programme ranging across Chopin's piano works, yet at the point when it was in danger of becoming too overwrought, Kupiec revealed a different side to her playing with a delicate, probing account of two of the opus 48 Nocturnes. The programme also included the Second Sonata by 20th-century Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz, a densely written work with an air of desolation, particularly in its powerful central movement.
Bacewicz is an obscure figure internationally, but not so Górecki, who achieved fame with his chart-topping Third Symphony. His Third String Quartet, performed in a late- night concert in St Magnus Cathedral by the Royal Quartet, mines a similar vein. In what might be termed "spiritual minimalism", little happens over a long time. Played with impressive control, it had a mesmeric effect, particularly in the surroundings, but it's debatable whether there is enough of interest here to justify its hour-long duration.
A more engaging glimpse of Polish culture was provided the next evening by Trebunie- Tutki, a family folk band from the Tatra mountains whose music embodies tradition while not being afraid to embrace modern influences.
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