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Ignacy Feliks DOBRZYNSKI (1807-1867)
String Quintet No. 1 in F Op. 20 (33:37)
String Quintet No. 2 in a minor Op. 40 (35:52)
Wilanow String Quartet (Tadeusz Gadzina (Violin 1); Pawel Losakiewicz (Violin 2); Ryszard Duz (Viola); Marian Wasiolka (Cello 1)) Tomasz Strahl (Cello 2)
rec. 17-18 January, 29 February, 1 March 2000, Polish Radio Studio S2, Warsaw

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There is quite a bit of good music coming from Poland these days, much of it coming from Warsaw-based Acte Préalable, possessing a wide-ranging catalogue of performances from both seasoned and young performers. Other labels are catching on, with CPO in particular offering some rather stunningly-recorded performances of works by unsung composers such as Juliusz Zarebski and Karol Lipinski, both recently released and sure to be reviewed here soon.

One of Acte Préalableís earlier releases, a collection of two quartets by Franciszek Lessel, (review ) was sent my way in the same shipment as this disc and I found it interesting to compare the two. Both of them show a similarity in temperament in that they both fit between the musical styles of Haydn and Beethoven. Lesselís fit more snugly on the side of Haydn, with an eye to tradition and classical lines. Dobrzynski, with more stress on rhythm and, to some extent, sheer force, finds himself closer to Beethoven. There are moments, for example, that one is caught up in the first movement of the first quartet in F, thinking that a particular snippet surely is a doff of the hat to a specific Beethoven quartet. Iíve not been able to detect any direct quotes, but part of the fun I got from listening to this disc is to try to identify the Beethoven quartets certain moments sound like. This, at first blush, seems like a less than glowing recommendation regarding Dobrzynski. These arenít pale imitations; they are quite enjoyable and also enjoyable in that they wholeheartedly show their influences.

Ignacy Dobrzynskiís musical inclination was discovered by his father, who was himself trained as a conductor and composer. After initial lessons from father, his musical learning was taken up by respected Polish pedagogue Jozef Elzner. From what Iíve been able to find ó including items from the helpful liner notes, to which I am indebted for this review ó Dobrzynski centered around Lvov and Warsaw. Among his other works - which will perhaps soon be found on disc? - we have symphonies, a piano concerto and a good deal of chamber music.

The footprint of Beethoven remains present during the charming Menuetto movement that follows. The grace-noted figure that appeared at the outset of the first movement is an insistent presence here, tossed from instrument to instrument like a lively ball. The slow movement, with four pizzicato chords, hushes the buoyant mood, moving to minor mode. The grace-noted motif makes a subdued appearance again here in the cellos as the main theme for this movement gets under way. The sonority and wonderful control the Wilanow quartet display - with Tomasz Strahl on second cello - is lovely, and their poised approach make this piece a joy to listen to. This movement also shows a patriotic sensibility in that its thematic material just happens to be the national anthem of Poland. From this, could there possibly be a personal statement by the composer in the indication of Doloroso ma non troppo lento for this movement? The finale is a rollicking Vivace, with the violin taking the lead in presenting the main musical statement, as bits of the first theme of the opening Allegro peep in between from the ensemble.

The later Quintet Op. 40 in A minor shows itself to be more sober, but much the same, with greatly enjoyable lyrical lines. Though in minor mode, this isnít a stormy opening movement, but the mark of Beethovenís influence remains, with forceful moments in the development section. The two cellos are used well here, with one providing support as the other plays a singing line once it is finished by the first violin. This piece has similarities in form to the earlier Quintet in F, with involved opening and closing movements, a Menuet and a slow movement. Here in the Op. 40, the order of the two middle movements is transposed, and we donít have the obsessive use of motifs through the entire piece as we experience in the Op. 20. Putting the slow movement after the contemplative first movement adds to the more subdued atmosphere of the piece. A particularly beautiful moment is in the Andante where the cello begins with the melody which the first violin continues before handing it back. Even the Menuetto shows itself to be a more serious affair. Still though, it has wry moments; dance-like, it appears to poke fun at itself, with a tiptoeing pizzicato accompaniment in the ensemble as the cello states the theme.

The recording quality is very good. There is a bit of ambient noise occasionally ó a chair creaking and the like but certainly not enough to detract from the enjoyment of these very accessible pieces. The liner-notes raise a doubt as to whether the rest of Dobrzynskiís works will eventually be presented to the public. This uncertainty, from what I can see, was voiced in the earlier days of Acte Préalable and before the latest very exciting wealth of new and previously unheard repertoire that is now becoming available. This disc is an enjoyable programme worth hearing.

David Blomenberg

Acte Préalable Catalogue


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