The story of the destructive contempt handed out to Andrzej Nikodemowicz makes for sadly dispiriting and predictable reading. He was born in Lviv in 1925, where he studied. By the outbreak of the war he was working as a church organist. Threats of terror came successively via the Soviets and then the Nazis, and the composer abandoned musical studies for seven years. A Catholic reluctant to bow to post-War Communist ideology he often worked without payment as an organist, ran into post-Zhdanov formalism problems (setting a banned poet), received his diploma as a pianist, and began a long teaching career. But pressure, omnipresent, increased on him in 1967 when he was assigned an ideological ‘guardian’ because of his outspoken views. In 1973 he was dismissed as an assistant professor at Lviv Conservatory. Not only that – all his archival recordings at Lviv Radio were erased. At this point he moved to Lublin in Poland, where he has continued to compose, and has retained his faith.
The violin and piano works selected for this disc were all composed some time between 1947 and 1956, though none is identified specifically. They are all ‘traditional’ in scope and ambition. The Romance
is formally of the lyric-romantic school. The violin and piano parts seem independent of each other for much of the time, and the volubly affirmative nature of the writing follows no prescribed course. At the end we have the sweet unalloyed consummation of lyricism. The Kolysanka
is a lullaby and but for a few spiced harmonies could easily have been written in the first decade of the twentieth century or even the last of the nineteenth. It seeks to obey no law other than the generosity of its own spirit. However in the Notturno
one senses the figure of Szymanowski closer to hand. It’s a work with glinting firefly moments that corresponds well with his putative influence. Even more so, one feels this in Poème 1
where the effusive writing has a strong stylistic affinity but the closeness is most pronounced of all in Poème II.
Here the effective allure of the writing, with its moments of ‘flattened’ expression and Arethusa´s
Fountain invocations, are most explicit. It’s a richly textured work.
The main piece however is the Violin Sonata. The booklet notes offer an amalgam of Debussy, Beethoven and Grieg. Once again though I hear elements of Szymanowski and also some French models – though not cyclical Franco-Belgian Franck. There’s fulsome romanticism in the central movement of three. The finale is certainly influenced by Grieg to a small degree but there’s French strength here too, and – not to be dismissed – a degree of almost courtly elegance. It’s an appealing work though I feel the compression of the smaller pieces paradoxically offers him more freedom of expression.
Nikodemowicz has been ardently served by his interpreters and by Dux. His music is untouched by any prescriptive –isms, indeed has been resistant to them. These early works show him grappling with the legacy of Szymanowski and others, and producing works of warm melodic grace.