Big anniversaries call for big celebrations. To mark Network for New Music's 25th, back in 2010, co-founder and artistic director Linda Reichert and NNM ensemble conductor Jan Krzywicki came up with the audacious idea of commissioning 25 new variations on Beethoven's seemingly inimitable Diabelli Variations. The result was a remarkable success, but the kicker was the finale, by Krzywicki himself, a tour de force that managed to amalgamate many elements of the preceding pieces before marching into a rousing coda of high spirits, wonderfully appropriate for the event.
Although Krzywicki is not one to blow his own horn too loudly, his beguiling music speaks for itself, and there are usually at least a handful of occasions to hear his stuff in any given season. His Lute Music was the standout work in the recent collaboration of NNM and a new Mendelssohn Club Chamber choir, known as FELYX_M. In this piece, characteristically, intricate craft and an uncanny sense for timbral relationships were employed in the service of unabashedly lyrical and accessible material.
The Temple University music professor is also well represented on recordings. Alchemy, released late last year on the Albany label, showcases five recent works for small ensembles, duos (including piano paired with baritone sax, oboe and flute) and solos, many played by the best of Philly's new-music soldiers. Some of the pieces show off a tougher side of the artist's personality than was heard in the relatively gentle Lute Music — Krzywicki has moments of gruffness and even violence in some of the music, but it is always expressed with a keen feeling for the particular personality of the voice of the instrument and, perhaps most significantly, a palpable striving for the potential for sheer beauty and wisdom in the sound and texture of his music.