The name of Tadeusz Szeligowski was completely new to me before
receiving this CD. He was born on 13 September 1896 in Lwów –
then in Austrian-controlled Polish Galicia, now L’viv in the Ukraine.
He attended the Lwów Conservatoire and later at the Jagiellonian
University in Kraków, where he received a doctorate in 1922. His
early career included that of repetiteur at the Kraków Opera and
a period practising law in Wilno - now Lithuanian Vilnius. He
became heavily involved in the musical life of Wilno and Szeligowski
decided to continue his musical studies, moving to Paris where
he studied with both Nadia Boulanger and Paul Dukas between 1929
and 1931. There he met fellow composers Prokofiev, Enescu and
Honegger and also encountered the music of Milhaud and Poulenc.
Following his return to Poland he eventually settled in Poznań
where he remained for the rest of his life, becoming the leading
light in the city’s musical and educational life.
All five works on this CD are receiving their first recordings.
The Comedy Overture of 1952, not unreasonably likened
to Kabalevsky’s Colas Breugnon in the booklet notes,
is a suitably attractive, if insubstantial, curtain-raiser.
The Four Polish Dances date from two years later and
reflect the time when many Polish composers - including Lutosławski
and Panufnik - were looking to folk music for inspiration. The
first-movement Korowód is a Polish round-dance in duple
time with a certain archaic nobility as expressed here. The
Walc lubelski is a waltz from the Lublin area of
and would not be completely out of place in a Prokofiev ballet.
The Sielanka third movement is a carefree idyll rather
than a dance, while the final Oberek – a form of mazurka
– proved to be the most appealing movement for me; a somewhat
rustic dance complete with folksy solo violin.
The Piano Concerto dates from 1941. It is decidedly neo-classical
in style and betrays his studies in Paris. It immediately
brought similar works by Poulenc, Ravel and Prokofiev to mind.
The atmospheric Andante slow movement has a strangely
Caucasian sound to it to my ears. I was reminded of shadows
of Khachaturian while listening to it. The soloist in this recording
is Bogdan Czapiewski, a past finalist in the Busoni and Montreal
Piano Competitions in the mid-1970s. His biography claims an
extensive discography but this seems to be the only recording
of his currently available. He is certainly an able and committed
advocate of this music and makes a very good case for the concerto.
The Nocturne at once betrays the influence of
the years Szeligowski spent in Paris but this time in a very different way. Gone is the Poulenc-like
neo-classicism. It is replaced by a very Debussian exoticism.
On repeated listening to this CD, the Nocturne turned
out to be my favourite piece. Finally on this disc, Szeligowski’s
Concerto for Orchestra is the earliest piece here. It is also
the most contemporary in the impression it makes. It is actually
only the second ‘Concerto for Orchestra’ written as far as I
can tell – only the Hindemith work of that name from 1925 pre-dates
it. Being written in 1930, Szeligowski’s Concerto for Orchestra
precedes better-known works by Kodály (1939), Bartók (1943)
and his compatriot Lutosławski (1954). The Concerto is
a substantial three-movement work of some twenty-four minutes.
The first is by far the longest and gets under way without any
ado, immediately revealing its more modern-sounding musical
world, including some quite original writing at, for example,
3:51. There is an extended - almost too extended - violin
solo at the end of the first movement which ingeniously melts
into an effective motor-like passage at 10:28 shortly before the movement’s close. I was interested
to note the ringing-on tam-tam at the end, a device Rakhmaninov
later used at the end of his Symphonic Dances of 1941.
I wonder if he had heard the Szeligowski piece? The second movement
reminded me a little of Honegger slow movements, or the more
menacing passages from some of his film scores. The very brief
third movement shows some of the folk music influences which
would surface again in the music of Lutosławski some twenty
years later. All in all, an enjoyable work.
The Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra under its founder
Mariusz Smolij is obviously a fine band of players. They prove
excellent advocates for the music of Poznań’s first musical son. The Auditorium of the Adam Minkiewicz University provides
a warm yet clear acoustic which is very well caught by the recording
For anyone interesting in filling the gap between Szymanowski
and Lutosławski in Polish music, this CD provides a fascinating
snapshot. Here is a composer who often betrays his influences
more than revealing a truly original voice. However, he proves
to be an excellent craftsman of agreeable and very digestible