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Jan TARASIEWICZ (1889-1961)
Chamber and Vocal Works

Prelude and Toccata in C sharp minor (1951) [9.08] 1
Suite No.1 in D major in four parts (1951) [7.21] 1
From the Suite No.2: Old Rome Song, Nice Waltz, Military March (1951) [5.39] 1
Polka in E major (1947) [3.24] 1
The Song (1919) [1.57] 2
Autumn Song (1919) [1.58] 2
Mournful Songs (1919) [11.25] 3
Why Boys Are Sad? [1.31] 4
My Motherland (1946) [2.57] 4
Lullaby (1946) [2.03] 4
Kasienka (1946) [1.38] 4
Sad Waltz in E minor (1947) [6.38] 5
Nocturne in A flat major (1955) [2.44] 5
Love Song in B flat minor (1949) [5.15] 5
Irina Shumilina (piano) 1
Victor Scorobogatov (baritone) and Anna Korenevskaya (piano) 2
The Student’s Choir of the Belorussian Academy of Music/Oleg Gembitsky 3
Tatyana Tsybulskaya (soprano) and Anna Korenevskaya (piano) 4
Igor Olovnikov (piano) 5
rec. live, Cathedral, Minsk (?1999)
ACTE PRÉALABLE AP 0047 [64.38]

Acte Préalable is doing a fine job in bringing to the public’s attention the works of some forgotten Polish composers. Taraseievich was actually born in Vilnius of an aristocratic family. After military college he moved to St Petersburg where he took composition lessons from Glazunov and pursued his enthusiasm for Belorussian folk music. War service in 1915 was followed by a gilded stay in the Tsar’s Winter Palace, a brief idyll cut short by the Civil War, at which point he returned to his family’s estate. Soviet Belorussia was a hazardous place for an aristocrat and landowner and, though he wrote music, Taraseievich made no attempt to publish any and seems to have kept his head down. In 1939 he escaped to Latvia, thus avoiding both the Germans and the Soviets, finally emerging in Poland. He scrabbled around for work – as a restaurant pianist and later for the radio – but he also taught. He failed to gain admittance to the Polish Composers Union. One of his best-known pupils was Jerzy Maksymiuk and another was Anatol Cherepinsky who preserved his teacher’s manuscripts for decades. It’s principally thanks to Cherepinsky that this music has survived. Taraseievich’s health worsened during the 1950s and he died in 1961.

Though he did write a deal of vocal and instrumental music his piano works are the most important part of his output. The Prelude and Toccata, despite the austere Bachian intimations, is full of rolled chords, romanticised gestures – Chopin, Liszt and Brahms are the influences. The First Suite comprises four delicious miniatures, the second of which has an elfin warmth and the Mazurka of which is a real music box charmer (shades of Liadov’s Musical Snuff Box). The Second Suite – we have three of the movements here – is full of nostalgia and limpid recollection – warm, old-fashioned, unpretentious.

His songs are worthy of note though the performances, whilst enthusiastic, are very strenuous. The Song dedicated to Grikovsky is in echt late nineteenth century Russian style - a muse steeped in melancholy. There are also some a capella songs – the Mournful Songs - which belie their title almost completely, unless their mournfulness is clothed in superficial jollity and artifice. The songs for soprano are again rather generic, though the third, a lullaby, has a landler like delicacy that impresses. Once again the performances are rather raw. The recital, recorded live, at a concert in Minsk ends with three piano pieces. The Sad Waltz fuses Bach with Chopin and is a passionate declamation, one of the most immediately appealing things on the disc. It shows both the limits of his ambition but also the strength of his accomplishment in miniatures.

Taraseievich’s life was clearly one of rupture and flight after his early days of luxury. His was a steady voice, circumscribed but lyrical and not developing much beyond Liadov as a model. This is a worthy tribute to him – well documented and biographically full. The performances, as noted, are sometimes rather hit and miss and the piano has not been that sympathetically recorded But a deserved tribute nonetheless.

Jonathan Woolf

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