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Lukasz Kuropaczewski: Portrait
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750) Preludium, Fuge und Allegro, BWV 998; Alexandre TANSMAN (1897–1986) Hommage à Chopin (1966); Mauro GIULIANI (1781–1829) Rossiniana No. 3, Op. 121
Lukasz Kuropaczewski (guitar)
rec. Matki Bozej Wniebowzietej Church, Puszczykowo, Poland, 2005. DDD
CD ACCORD ACD 140 2 [38:27]



The very first thing that catches the listener’s interest is the beautiful sound; the sound of the instrument and the sound of the venue. This Polish church seems ideal for the instrument in question. The next thought is that it may be a notch too closely miked, since we also get quite a lot of the practically unavoidable mechanical noises from the fingerboard. As an inveterate listener to guitar recordings this is something I have got used to and only momentarily does it lessen the impact of the music-making.

The music making? The Bach piece, Preludium, Fuge und Allegro, feels heavy and inflexible. "Energetic" is the label I would put on the playing of the Prelude and the same goes for the Fugue and when we come to the Allegro I had expected it to dance – but it doesn’t. The overriding impression is of energy and clenched teeth, well played, no doubt about that, but little charm, little light and shade. Maybe it’s the music which in the main is built of chords piled one upon the other, that gives a pedestrian effect. Checking in the Bach Werk Verzeichnis (BWV) I see that this is the only lute piece by Bach that is marked "Laute oder Klavier (Cembalo)". Maybe it would sound better on a harpsichord, but I still think more nuance could have been found and the playing could have had a lighter touch.

Polish guitarist Lukasz Kuropaczewski is no real newcomer, even though he was a new name to me. He has several earlier, critically acclaimed recordings to his credit and has studied for the last three years for Manuel Barrueco. As a Pole it is natural for him to choose music by a compatriot, in this case Alexandre Tansman’s homage to another great, possibly the greatest, Polish composer, Fryderyk Chopin. Like Chopin Tansman spent most of his life in Paris, where he was influenced by the likes of Stravinsky and Ravel. He wrote in a neo-classical style and his compositions encompass most genres. There are nine symphonies, eight string quartets, a couple of operas, some vocal music, film music and two works for bassoon and piano. He is probably best known for his guitar works, mostly written for Andrès Segovia, in particular the Suite in modo polonico from 1962, which is a collection of Polish dances. Hommage à Chopin was written in 1966. As late as 1982 he wrote a Hommage à Lech Walesa. The Chopin homage is in three movements, beginning with a Prélude, which is dark and almost forbidding. Is it a funeral march? There is no real melodic progression, just a feeling of a strenuous walk through a rainy landscape. The following Nocturne is also dark and shadowy but this music has real momentum and Mr Kuropaczewski shows his mettle by conjuring a rich palette of colours. The concluding Valse romantique is the most Chopinesque of the movements, but even here Tansman prefers dark colours: to me it’s dark red and dark orange against a backdrop of black. It glows, but it’s a subdued glow.

Mauro Giuliani was probably the greatest guitar virtuoso of his generation and also an important composer for the instrument. He composed a great number of potpourris, suites and the like, often borrowing melodies from contemporary composers. He was obviously very fond of Rossini’s music, and he wasn’t alone. There was a veritable Rossini fever in Europe during the first decades of the 19th century. He eventually got to know Rossini and, it seems, was even given access to some of his scores, from which he culled music and put together no fewer than six potpourris (Op. 119–124) of which Kuropaczewski plays the third. It is in twelve short movements, beginning with an Introduzione. Then follow a number of themes played "straight" followed by sometimes elaborate variations. It is all elegantly done, not very deep music but highly entertaining and a perfect vehicle for an accomplished guitarist to show his paces. The melodies chosen are charming and beautiful and on the whole very Rossinian, even though I was unable to identify any of them. There is a very beautiful Andantino (tr. 8) and the Variazione (tr. 14) has a real Rossinian crescendo. The last movement, also a Variazione, is a real tour de force and any guitarist daring to play this in public will forever be the audience’s hero. Kuropaczewski plays it with aplomb – impressive stuff!

The disc comes in a slimline box with a few lines, in English and Polish, about the guitarist but not a word about the music. And I don’t think I have had a disc for review with so short a playing time. Thirty-eight and a half minutes is actually only half a CD!

Whether it be Johann Sebastian’s or Lukasz’s fault I was less than impressed by the Bach. The Tansman was a valuable addition to my collection and the Giuliani was sheer joy. Black marks, though, for the (lack of) documentation and the parsimonious playing time.

Göran Forsling

 



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