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Ivan KRIZHANOVSKY (1867-1924)
Cello Sonata in G minor, op.2 (1903) [24:11]
Nikolai POTOLOVSKY (1878-1927)
Two Pieces for cello and piano, op.3 [6:02]
Cello Sonata in D minor, op.2 (1905) [29:46]
Jaroslaw Domzal (cello)
Lubow Nawrocka (piano)
rec. Polish Radio Studio S1, Warsaw, August 2009. DDD

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Acte Préalable bills itself as the "leading label promoting Polish music and musicians". As Nikolai Potolovsky and Ivan Krizhanovsky are both Russians - though the latter was born in Kyiv - this new release is presumably a showcase for the soloists, especially cellist Jaroslaw Domzal, who gets four times as much space as Lubow Nawrocka for his biography and photo.
Domzal is certainly a fine cellist, at least on the evidence of this sparkling recital - though this is in fact his seventh CD for Act Préalable - and he is well supported by the more experienced Nawrocka in this, her second recording for the label. Yet what makes this CD special is the superb music of Krizhanovsky, whose surname, incidentally, is more frequently and more consonantly transliterated 'Kryzhanovsky', and especially of Potolovsky. Their two Cello Sonatas are expressive, lyrical, life-affirming, with a hint of nostalgia: musically situated somewhere in a triangle formed by Saint-Saëns, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. Not particularly Russian, nor indeed Polish, except that they are straight out of the mainstream of late Romanticism - and none the worse for it.
Neither composer has an entry in Oxford Music Online - both are mentioned in passing only in their dealings with more prominent names - and little if any of their music has been recorded before. In this regard Jan Jarnicki, a friend of Domzal's, deserves considerable plaudits for uncovering these scores. In his own words he spends "a vast amount of time scrutinising all kinds of publishing houses, libraries and other collections from all around the world in search of forgotten pieces of music somehow related to Poland." The connection in this case is tenuous, to say the least: "their names sounded very much Polish"; but their music speaks a pan-European language of drama, passion, delicious harmony and lovely melody. Potolovsky in particular, evidently a great pedagogue and excellent cellist, must rank as a great find: if this is what his op.2 is like - and the Cello Sonata really is outstanding - the rest of his music must be sought out and recorded for posterity without delay!
Sound quality is very impressive, and the string player's breathing - the marring of many a chamber recording - only very occasionally noticeable. There is a momentary blip in the slow movement of the Potolovsky, either electronic or caused by Domzal, it is hard to tell, but otherwise this is one of Acte Préalable's best efforts. The CD booklet has the usual AP quality glossy feel to it, with a canny advertisement for 18 previous releases! Domzal is good with the cello, but not at writing about it in English - his notes are an attempt, valiant but irksome, at an academic register that is 90% guff. He also asserts that Krizhanovsky and Potolovsky "came from Poland and worked in Russia", yet his own biography of the latter later states that he was born in Moscow and spent most of his life there.
Acte Préalable discs rarely give more than an hour's worth of music, and this one is unfortunately no exception, but when the music is this genial, and performed so well, such matters must be overlooked.
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