We have heard from Katarina Glowicka (also called Kasia Glowicka) on Red Sun, a 2013 release from Bôłt Records, where she composed piano music for Malgorzata Walentynowicz. Here she is again with Seven Sonnets (DUX 1194 / ARTEK SOUNDS ART003 / BÔŁT RECORDS BR1028), which is her settings for sonnets by William Shakespeare, here given a “modern interpretation”. It’s a boring and slow set, and the listener must work hard to discern any sense to these over-extended tunes with their lengthy held tones and subtle variations. There are songs of a sort. The singer is counter-tenor Arnon Zlotnik, an Israeli-born opera singer who hits the correct notes, but sounds strangely distant and uninvolved, as if he’s passing time in an airport terminal. Considering the sonnets here are all about young love, I’d hope for a little more passion and enthusiasm in the delivery. No such luck. The Rubens Quartet are a string quartet playing Glowicka’s arrangements, which are enhanced with electronic music interventions from the composer. The plan is match the patterns in the string sections with these “electronic counterpoints”. Whatever the intention, it’s done nothing to improve the dynamics of these torpid drones.
All of the above is supposed to build on the music of Renaissance composer John Dowland in some way. Well, this hubris cuts no ice with me; few composers have come close to matching Dowland’s gifts for compression and emotional tautness, and Glowicka fails singularly. Downland always matched the content of the libretto to the music in meaningful ways; the tune, and the way it was played, would illustrate the text in a sympathetic fashion, the two streams of content locked together like a dovetail joint, always delivering a strong emotional charge. This kind of applied songcraft is beyond the capabilities of Glowicka, which is one reason why we end up with this severe emotional disconnect; neither the singer, nor the players, nor Glowicka herself, apparently have the slightest idea what the sonnets are about. With this disconnect, what results is an empty work, devoid of meaning. A modernist statement of intellectual coldness, for the generation that’s become so ironic that it’s forgotten the meaning of everything. Released in 2015.