Per Slava for cello solo
Brief though it may be, Per Slava is by no means a trifle as far as its artistic weight is concerned. The arrangement of the anagram notes B-A-C-H with which the narration opens foreshadows the serious nature of the whole. The piece is devoid of sonoristic sound effects of the kind Penderecki had demonstrated years before in his early string quartets. In Per Slava, the performer faces an altogether different kind of challenge: notation without bar lines introduces metro-rhythmic freedom. The way the cellist allows the music to “flow” through his instrument determines the interpretation of the piece, and tests his ability to contribute to the composition in a meaningful manner.
The piece opens with lyrical “whispers” that create an illusion of polyphony even before the texture becomes denser through the use of double notes. Now the difficulty mounts, with sequences of tiny rhythmic values, demanding sound figures and four-tone harmonies, and begins to develop into an absorbing narrative, which dramatically descends back towards the initial Lento.
The outstanding harmonic and melodic material of this composition has
been used for an equally ingenious jazz arrangement, presented as part of a
larger project in 2002 by an international band including the Oles brothers.
The jazz version was performed during the Jazz Era concerts entitled Penderecki…
Jazz under the composer’s honorary patronage, and recorded by the Contemporary
Quartet (Not Two, 2002). The arrangements of this and two other works by
Penderecki restored the composer to some extent to the world of jazz.