Kaszuba is a graduate of the ‘Poznań
School of Talents’ as both violinist
and pianist, and as a composer from
the Academy of Music in Poznań.
She has won awards and prizes as both
composer and performer, and her talent
has been recognised by the Ministry
of Culture in the Republic of Poland,
who supported the making of this recording
as part of a scholarship programme.
This project assembled some outstanding
artists of the younger generation to
record Kaszuba’s music, creating a melting-pot
of enthusiasm and activity.
Korczak for solo violin is a kind
of lament, a moving elegy written after
the composer had read a short story
about Dr. Janusz Korczak’s journey with
children of the Dom Sierot (an orphanage)
to the Nazi death camp in Treblinka.
for piano is, as the title suggests,
an eclectic and virtuoso exploration
of the technical and sonic possibilities
in the instrument, with some dramatic
and super-fast ornament-like figurations
and snaps. The quiet central section
has a distinctly French feel.
violin solo has been widely performed
after receiving third prize for the
competition Patri Patriae (1998) for
a work dedicated to Pope John Paul II.
As a violinist herself, Kaszuba writes
extremely well for the instrument, utilising
the resonances and contrapuntal possibilities
of double-stopping like a grand master.
Trio is another prize-winning work
in which Kaszuba’s expertise in composing
for strings plays a significant role.
The title alludes to the swaggering
nature of the ensemble and the instrumentalists
as individuals – the piece has a rhythmic
energy which maintains a strong stage
presence up to a contemplative ‘golden
section’ interlude and a rousing close.
accordion has a dancing quality, the
associations with sea-shanties or folk
music coming to the fore in a three-in-a-bar
feel. The accordion joins a solo violin
in the next piece, a short Humoresque
which Kaszuba wrote for the instrument
and here plays her own duo. This is
an ideal vehicle for Kaszuba’s own abilities,
extending the rhythmic nature of the
previous work and including some light
and rapid finger-work from the accordionist.
Suoni per sei violinisti
appeared as the result of acquaintance
with a number of musicians, resulting
in work for a homogeneous ensemble.
In two movements, the violins at first
and cluster, splintering with musical
sparks, or draping aural curtains in
a way which recalls some of the effects
of Lutosławski or Penderecki. The
second movement is a more urgent, rhythmic
scherzo whose compact dimensions would
seem to demand a balancing third
The title: Islands
of Happiness, refers to the names
given to each of the work’s three movements,
imaginary islands Ikaba, Thira
and Habaos, a gesture of
respect towards Greek culture. The music
is therefore a natural expression of
fascinations and experiences with the
Mediterranean, and the work is filled
with colour and variety. The strings
of the piano are sometime struck directly,
giving a zither effect. A central nocturne-like
movement with bell resonances and expressive,
lyrical lines is framed by two punchy,
rhythmic ‘Islands’ whose drama and imagery
is left to the imagination of the listener.
On a Summit Glade
concludes the disc, an atmospheric work
for strings which has as its inspiration
the highland folklore of south-east
Europe. A mystical, sustained opening
moves on toward an effect like whispering
wind through the trees. This introduction
preludes the main part of the work,
which emerges as a whirling dance.
As a showcase for Barbara
Kaszuba’s work this disc is the best
calling-card one could wish for. The
pieces are all performed very well indeed,
and recorded with care and professionalism.
More information about the pieces as
well as about the prizes they won might
have been helpful. Her work shows a
substantial and worthwhile platform
of work from which a really individual
voice will no doubt develop further
– which makes me sound like a crusty
old critic, but as I’m sure even Barbara
Kaszuba would wish to agree with the
sentiment; ‘the best is yet to come’!