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Polish Cello and Piano Sonatas
Zygmunt STOJOWSKI (1870-1946)
Cello Sonata Op.18 (1895) [27:49]
Aleksander TANSMAN (1897-1986)
Cello Sonata No.2 (1930) [16:01]
Witold SZALONEK (1927-2001)
Cello Sonata (1958) [18:37]
Jerzy BAUER (b.1936)
Cello Sonata in One Movement (1982) [7:07]
Michał Dmochowski (cello)
Graham Jackson (piano)
rec. studios, Polish Radio, Warsaw, December 2005. DDD
DUX 0514 [69:39]

These four Polish sonatas span nearly a century. Stojowski’s big three-movement work was written in 1895 when the composer was twenty-five. It was dedicated to the international Lion of Polish music, Paderewski, and premiered by the composer with Casals in Paris in 1900. Curiously, according to H.L. Kirk’s mammoth biography of the cellist, Paderewski was also in Paris. This was around the time that the pianist planted himself in the front row at a Casals recital and started hard at the Catalan for the entire concert, later explaining that Casals was the “predestined figure” in music.

The sonata is romantic and lyric, late-romantic in orientation and expertly laid out. There are virtuoso moments, though the first movement is too long and could have done with some cogent pruning. The outburst of passion in the Andante is attractive though perhaps somewhat diffuse and it’s really only in the finale, often a problematic stumbling block, that we feel something of the force of Stojowski’s best inspirations. Certainly there’s something of a cosmopolitan feel to things but at least the folkloric moments are embedded with great tact and security. When Stojowski taps that source his muse is anything but naïve.

Tansman lived much of his life in the city that premiered the Stojowski. His own Second Sonata was first performed by that prince of cellists, Maurice Maréchal, with the composer taking the piano part. A year later Casals played it with Horszowski, adding the earlier Tansman sonata for good measure with Tansman once more doing the considerable honours at the keyboard. Lilting and loosely late-impressionistic this is a most engaging work. Its soul resides in the central Largo, a chanson of delicious warmth that rises to a ferment of passionate lyricism. The pizzicato-led high spirits of the finale carry with them flecks of Parisian dance bands and domiciled jazz. This concise work makes immediate claims through its warmth and wit; inquisitive cellists could do a lot worse than take a look at it.

The third of the quartet is the much later sonata by Witold Szalonek, written in 1958. This is a highly literate and articulate work imbued with the ethos of the Second Viennese School. The martially striding patterns and tintinabulism add variety and colour both to its sound-world and its rhythmic profile. The slow movement moves from powerful outbursts to tolling gravity in the piano – and generates a certain see-sawing intimacy of expression. The finale is rather doughty and the work ends on a quizzical, unresolved questioning note – as if more is to be said but perhaps not now. The final work is the extremely compact seven-minute sonata by Jerzy Bauer. It’s clearly multi-partite despite its brevity and manages to move from section to section with athleticism. It was written for the composer’s son.

The Tansman is the pick of this very disparate group though all the works offer rewards in their individual ways. The balance between instruments sometimes favours the piano; there are moments when Graham Jackson covers Michał Dmochowski in the opening movement of the Tansman for instance. Maybe too this could do with a faster tempo – I remember a performance by Alexander Zagorinsky and Alexei Shmitov that went at a considerably faster lick. But the Dmochowski-Jackson team treats it well on its terms as it does the other works. Their selection ranges widely and well.

Jonathan Woolf 

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