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

Musique de Ballet, Op. 7 [9:41]
Quinze Variations d’après une suite de douze sons Op. 9 [9:08]
Four Pieces for Children [3:36]
Variations sur une valse de Johann Strauss, Op. 23 [15:34]
Chanson slave [2:09]
Elzbieta Sternlicht (Piano)
rec. 4-7 January 2005 at Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, Berlin
ACTE PREALABLE APO 123 [40:30]


Elzbieta Sternlicht concludes her foray into the piano works of little-known Polish composer Jozef Koffler in this second volume. Exterminated with his family in Auschwitz, his work hasn’t been heard until now. With works the public saw as unapproachable and sterile, he was held in low esteem during his lifetime; his work all but vanished after his death.

These pieces, sensitively and ably played, call to mind the atmosphere of Hindemith, contrapuntal and occasionally brittle, but never uninteresting. None of the works here is very long — the Musique de ballet Op. 7’s four pieces clocks in at just under ten minutes. Swaying between Hindemith’s sonic world and the swagger of Prokofiev’s piano miniatures, these movements doff a hat on occasion to dance music of the time.

Two sets of variations are on this disc, the first, dedicated to Schoenberg, most strongly shows that influence. Variations on a theme of a twelve-tone series is sparse, angular and introspective. As a sort of palate cleanser, Four Pieces for Children affords a change of tone. Here, the harmonies are less sharp, but in listening to them, they likely wouldn’t appeal to the kiddies so much as to the teacher. The Variations on a waltz of Johann Strauss follow. Making an appearance here in spirit is Mompou, calling to mind especially Mompou’s Chopin variations, though here we skip the theme and proceed immediately to the variations, which from the outset move the Strauss theme into a far cooler realm.

The disc time is rather short at only forty minutes, but the music is interesting, of quality, and performed well. As I mentioned in my review of volume one, it appears that we will be seeing quite a bit of non-standard repertoire from Poland in the coming months. If they are of the quality of this release, we have a great deal of good listening to look forward to.


David Blomenberg

see also review of Volume 1

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