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Zygmunt STOJOWSKI (1870-1946)
Suite for Orchestra in E flat major op. 9 (1890-91) [23:13]
Le Printemps - cantata for mixed choir and orchestra op. 7 (1895) [7:24]
Prayer for Poland - cantata for soprano, baritone, mixed choir, orchestra and organ op. 40 (1915) [22:03]
Marta Wróblewska (soprano); Maciej Bogumil Nerkowski (baritone); Rafal Sulima (organ)
The Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra in Bialystok/Marcin Nalecz-Niesiolowski
rec. Podlasie Opera and Concert Hall, Bialystock, December 2007. DDD
DUX 0625 [53:56]
Experience Classicsonline

Poland here acknowledges the forgotten work of one of its musical sons. He was born near Kielce and. He studied at the Cracow Conservatory. We may know him from the Hyperion recording of his two piano concertos and solo piano music. Dux have also given us his violin sonata and cello sonata. His Rhapsodie Symphonique for piano and orchestra is on ABC.
His op. 9 may bear a forgettable title but its three movements are packed with interest. The Thčme varié begins in Slavonic accents redolent of Mussorgsky's Dawn on the Moskva River. A series of intricate variations then flies along at hectic pace too quick and concentrated for boredom to set in and always intensely inventive. The cortex of this music is Brahmsian but there are magical nationalist overtones which add spruce and shine; try the harp silver-lights at 5.27. Other works which relate to the core of this work are Dunhill's Elegiac Variations and Parry's Symphonic Variations. Stojowski's invention is genuinely touching as at the long aureate melody at 7:57 onwards. The second movement is an Intermčde Polonaise which starts with a figure irresistibly recalling Hamish MacCunn's most famous overture but soon shakes off the impression with delightfully piquant woodwind and string dialogue (1:11). The finale is a Reverie and Cracovienne, distinguished by some engaging work for the bassoon and the stahlspiel. The Suite was premiered complete in 1894 by the Berlin Philharmonic. Hans von Bülow, to whom it is dedicated, conducted it in Hamburg in one of his last concerts. It also featured in the Lamoureux season in Paris in 1895. It was there that he wrote his short cantata Spring and dedicated it to Delibes. This Delian effusion is intensely romantic and cantabile. It might be thought of as in the same genre as Rachmaninov's own Spring Cantata and Three Russian Songs as well as Coleridge-Taylor's choral works. Delightfully inventive music again.
The doughty Prayer for Poland may run to only 22 minutes but it has patriotic aspirations and they are fulfilled in ringingly confident grandeur. It vibrates with the storm and ardour of Finlandia and the idealism of John Ireland's much later These Things Shall Be. Stojowski throws his forces into the fray with the precision of a master creator and orchestrator. Marta Wróblewska has an open vibrant soprano voice which has not yet succumbed to Slav wobble. The writing she is given at 6:51 predicts the music of Szymanowski. The baritone Maciej Bogumil Nerkowski has a similarly fine voice. After such white hot fervour the music relaxes at 13:00 with a return to the gleaming tone of Spring and of the first section of Rachmaninov's The Bells. Other sections of this work recall the tumult of Havergal Brian's Gothic and Siegeslied and the romantic release of Hanson's Lament for Beowulf.
All in all Dux and their artists put not a foot wrong.
The performances burn with a special fervour not that often found in commercial recordings. Bialystok can pride itself on music-making of such constantly ripe commitment. I hope that they will record more from Poland's neglected late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and that the Bialystock concert hall will be noted by other recording producers for its resinous resonance. Worth the trip … on this evidence.
Shame about the short running time - surely there was some other work by Stojowski that could have been added. However the music itself is intrinsically valuable. Your assurance on this point is that it draws you back for repeat hearings.
Rob Barnett



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