Variations sur un thème original Op.1 [9:51]
Deux pièces pour le piano Op.2 [6:43]
Polonaise Op.5 [5:06]
Valse-Caprice Op.6 [4:45]
Deux Etudes de Concert Op.7 [10:32]
Six Preludes Op.8 [8:27]
Sonata in F major Op.27 (1910) [20:56]
Lubow Nawrocka (piano)
rec. May 2008, Polish Radio Studio S1
ACTE PRÉALABLE APO 187 [61:09]
Pachulksi is one in a long line of Polish composers who are being rediscovered by this indefatigable record company.
He was born in 1859, studied in Warsaw – his counterpoint teacher was Moniuszko – and then went to Moscow where he studied under the founder of the city’s music conservatory, Nikolai Rubinstein. As a piano teacher and performer he began his career in Russia eventually becoming a professor in Moscow in 1916. He died in 1921.
His Op.1 Variations were dedicated to Taneyev. The theme is harmonically supple and melancholy. The first variation plunges into torrid, strong and powerful writing, long on contrasts. It’s a work that offers sure absorption of Russian pianistic compositional models including his erstwhile teacher Rubinstein and maybe even Arensky. The 2 pièces pour le piano Op.2 offer useful variety, though the second is the more interesting in its outgoing geniality. The Polonaise brings out the Pole in him, and is forceful, busy and has virtuosic flourishes. Such features reoccur in the Valse-Caprice which is undeniably assertive although a touch generic.
Pachulski is at his weakest when he embarks on quasi-Lisztian studies such as the second of the Etudes de Concert Op.7 which is a somewhat windy and stormy affair, lacking in definition and purposeful melodic writing. Chopin haunts parts of the Op.8 Preludes, of which there are six. The fifth in B flat minor is a winner in its diverting vivaciousness though the last is certainly richly voiced and warmly textured.
The last work is also the biggest, the 1910 Op.27 Sonata. It’s also the only work to be definitively dated in the good booklet notes. The opening Allegro is serious, well laid out but unmemorable. The slow movement enshrines some of those qualities of restlessness that do recur as a feature of his music, though here it takes on an incessant character that vitiates things. The Scherzo is rather pugnacious, though this does act as a good foil for the clement B section. We are assured at least of a strong sinewy finale, and one is duly forthcoming. Though it was dedicated to Rachmaninov it’s not a work that reveals any outstanding lyrical or thematic gifts, plausibly structured though it undoubtedly is.
Lubow Nawrocka is the intrepid explorer who gives us an all-premiere disc. These novelties shed light on a Polish composer whose professional career was centred on Moscow and St Petersburg, and whose compositions are athletic, strongly argued but ultimately lack true distinction. The fine performances and production are decided assets.
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