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Jozef KOFFLER (1896-1943/4)
Piano Works: Volume One

Musique Quasi una Sonata, Op. 8 [8:39]
Sonatina Op. 12 Mojej zonie [8:04]
Forty Polish Folksongs [34:57]
Elzbieta Sternlicht (piano)
rec. 4-7 January 2005, Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, Berlin. DDD


Back in the 1990s, a veritable flood of not only important but interesting music came from the Russian stockpile of Melodiya recordings. These included previously unheard recordings of Feinberg and lesser-known pianists in the 21-disc ‘Russian Piano School’ set, seldom-heard performances of Sviatoslav Richter on 5 discs and Mravinsky’s recordings with the Leningrad Philharmonic on 20 discs. Svetlanov’s impressive ‘Anthology of Russian Symphonic Music’ series extended past sixty discs, not including his complete recordings of Myaskovsky’s symphonies. Pieces not covered in this massive wave came out on other labels, such as the much harder to pronounce Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga label. Soon, however, these attractively-priced discs vanished from store shelves after Western world conglomerates snapped up Melodiya and its miles of magnetic tape. After an initial spurt of releases through BMG and, to a lesser extent, ZYX, the whole thing dried up by 1999.

A similar flood now appears to be coming from other former Eastern Bloc countries, especially Poland. On offer, as example, is this the first of two discs of Jozef Koffler’s piano music. Newly and crisply recorded, Sternlicht plays with spirit and conviction and, it appears, affection. The piano is bright and well balanced.

An early proponent of the 12-tone system, Koffler, here strongly reminds one of Hindemith with Prokofiev’s swagger, albeit not as much on this disc as on the second volume. The Musique Quasi una Sonata, Op. 8 and his Sonatina, Op. 12 Koffler is reminiscent of Mompou in his sparseness, with dissonances even calling Alexandr Mosolov to mind. None of these pieces is long — the largest-scale work on this disc is the excellent five-movement Op. 8, where the finale is just over 2 minutes long. The construction of these pieces is taut and lean, and Sternlicht’s clarity shows this to great advantage. At first blush, the following forty settings of Polish folksongs (without voice) may seem a bit of a trial for both composer and listener, but the settings are overall very light, sensitive and enjoyable, with the touch of Schubert at times.

In considering the other discs on offer from Acte Préalable, it looks like we may be treated to another rich feast of unheard repertoire. If the quality of those recordings is on the same level as this release, we are in for a very rich feast indeed.

David Blomenberg

see also volume 2

Full Acte Préalable Catalogue


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