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Julian FONTANA (1810-1869)
Chopinís Disciples: Vol. V

Premiere Fantaisie Brilliante sur les motifs de Somnambula de Bellini, Op 14 [8:56]
A la Mazurka in G [1:08]
Caprice Op. 1 No. 1 [4:20]
La Havanne 13:33
Douze Rêveries (Etudes-Preludes) en deux suites Op. 8 [20:58]
Elegie Op. 7 [5:58]
Trois Mazurkas Op. 21 [6:28]
Souvenirs de líIle de Cuba Deux Fantaisies Op. 12 [11:39]
Ballade Op. 17
Hubert Rutkowski (piano)
rec. March 2007, Studio S1, Warsaw

Experience Classicsonline


This, for me, has been quite an exciting release. It is my introduction to both Julian Fontanaís work and also the first disc Iíve heard of an ongoing Acte Préalable series of works by Chopinís students and followers. The large Roman numeral on the cover indicates that more of Fontanaís work is on the way, though I wasnít able to find how many discs worth of his music will be forthcoming. Based on the quality of the playing, sound aesthetic, and, above all, the enjoyable quality of the music presented here, I very much look forward to future releases.

Fontana, born in Warsaw, became a good friend of Chopin while in grammar school. He began his studies in Law before the Uprising of 1830 took him into the military. Two years after that he took up study of the piano with Chopin, later travelling to England to teach. His connection with Chopin continued (Chopinís Op. 40 Polonaise is dedicated to Fontana) as he gained fame as a performer on the Continent. Chopinís family commissioned him to compile and publish the manuscripts left over at the time of Chopinís death. The liner-notes mention that Fontanaís efforts saved many of Chopinís till-then-unpublished works from being lost. By 1855, however, troubles beset him, from the death of his beloved wife, her familyís exclusion of him, and finally, a painful spinal disease which left him deaf and unable to play. In a resourceful transformation of his talents through herculean effort he made a name in literature. There is a (now lost) first translation of Don Quixote into Polish and various works on linguistics and folk history. Nothing seemed to stick, however. He died by his own hand in 1869.

The music here ó and at over 80 minutes, there couldnít have been more packed onto the disc ó is eminently enjoyable, showing both the influence of Chopin, as well as an individual sound that fans of Chopin and Liszt will greatly enjoy. Rutkowskiís playing is clear and fluent, with definition and a lack of sentimentality. Standouts on this disc ó and there are quite a few ó include the La Havanne, a fantaisie on American and Spanish themes that he heard during his travels to Cuba, where he met his wife. The Op. 7 Elegie flows sombrely. The shadow of Chopin is heavy on some of these works, but in a sense that doesnít at all give the impression of aping. It is however highly recommended for fans of Chopinís music.

Overall this is a wonderful release of some woefully under-appreciated music. It is performed quite well by Hubert Rutkowski, whom I hope to hear more of in coming years.

David Blomenberg


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