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Aleksander TANSMAN (1897-1986)
Recueil de mazurkas pour piano (1918-1928) [18:33]
Quatrième recueil de mazurkas pour piano (1941) [15:45]
Hommage à Artur Rubinstein – deux pièces pour piano (1973) [5:15]
Elżbieta Tyszecka (piano)
rec. studios of Polish Radio, Łódź, July 2005

Experience Classicsonline

It’s admirable that so much of Tansman’s music is now being recorded and propagated by so many recording companies. It’s appropriate of course that Poland’s own Acte Préalable should contribute to this bounty and it does so in this very short-measure disc devoted to Tansman’s mazurkas.

What we have here is the long-gestated 1918-28 set of ten mazurkas and the fourth set of nine printed in 1941. There is an envoi in the shape of the touching, but resolute and no-holds-barred tribute to Artur Rubinstein. In all this lasts just shy of forty minutes, something I would be remiss in not noting.

Despite his immersion in French music Tansman was a proud Polish composer. So, certainly, his mazurkas owe much to the obvious figure of Chopin. But they’re actually not dissimilar to some of the contemporary piano music of Martinů, whose own Parisian residence lent his own music an admixture of the Czech folkloric and the French nightclub. Whilst one doesn’t want to push the most obvious point of this it’s true that both these composers owed a great deal to Roussel; Tansman actually dedicated his first set of Mazurkas to the French composer and Martinů studied with him.

One could characterise the earlier set as stylised but spiced. There are enough harmonic twists to lend the music a distinctive character of its own – and it’s in no way an emulation of Chopin. The moderato second is pensive, the Oberek third is a molto vivo with exciting properties. The strong impressionist influence on Tansman is nowhere more explicitly realised than in the fifth and in the seventh, a moderato, we can feel the influence of Tasman’s older compatriot Szymanowski. The most extrovert is the third Oberek and the finale is a Blues drenched Berceuse, an unusual but actually rather effective piece of craftsmanship.

The 1941 set is the final set of four mazurkas that Tasman wrote. This set of nine is, if anything, even more concise than the early set. Once again harmonic goldfish add colour and darting direction to the writing though here the idiom does seem that much more cosmopolitan and French than before. Debussy is surely behind the third and fourth mazurkas. It sounds as if the seventh were a chanson – one can imagine words to it – but the work is Tasman’s, a bittersweet confection and very appealing, though quite a long way from the Oberek. This time the Lento postlude has Russian hues.

The Rubinstein tribute is rather a muscular workout written in 1973. Tansman had composed for the pianist before and here he doesn’t stint the technical demands or the faint hints, amidst the drama, of a kind of displaced ragtime in places.

Diane Anderson has recorded all four books of mazurkas on Talent Dom 2910 39 but I’ve not had access to that recording for points of comparison. The recording for this Acte Préalable is rather clattery and Elżbieta Tyszecka’s piano doesn’t always sound the finest. And we do only have the two books as against Talent’s four, in a disc lasting less than forty minutes.

Jonathan Woolf


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