Wladyslaw ZELENSKI (1837-1921) Piano Quartet in C minor Op 61 (1890s) [36:19]
Juliusz ZAREBSKI (1854-1885) Piano Quintet in G minor Op 34 (1885) [34:47]
Jonathan Plowright (piano)
Szymanowski Quartet (Andrej Bielow (violin); Grzegorz Kotów (violin); Vladimir Mykytka (viola); Marcin Sieniawski (cello))
rec. December 2011, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
HYPERION CDA67905 [71:06]
The lyrical Poland beyond Chopin and Szymanowski is doing well at present. Acte Préalable, Dux and, before them, Olympia in the 1990s stood us in good stead. CD Accord has just issued a recording of the three tone poems of Eugeniusz Morawski. Now Hyperion enter the lists with two substantial chamber works for piano and strings. These are by little known Poles of broadly the same generations as Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Franck.
The lyrically liquid flow of Kraków-based Zelenski is irresistible. The music surely owes something to Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto but its aristocratically confident mien also bears a resemblance to that of Franck and even early Fauré. There’s a smilingly centred and contented Romanza – all twilight and moonlight. After this comes a supernatural Intermezzo to prepare the ground for an earnestly fluent Allegro appassionato.
You may have heard the Zelenski before. It was available from the Polish Piano Quartet on now-deleted Olympia OCD381 with Zygmunt Noskowski’s admirable Piano Quartet in D minor. More recently it was on Acte Préalable. Zelenski’s two string quartets are in Acte Préalable’s catalogue (AP0236). The same label has given us a sampling of his solo piano music (review). His Violin Sonata can be heard alongside Stojowski’s Sonata on AP0112. CDAccord offer In the Tatra Mountains for orchestra (1870).
The charismatic Zarebski was born near Kraków and after spells in Prague and Warsaw returned there. Tragically, much of his music was destroyed in the wars that laid waste to Poland. The Piano Quintet was only published in 1931. It has been recorded several times but perhaps the most famous inscription dates from the 1960s with Bronislaw Gimpel and Wladyslaw Szpilman, ‘The Pianist’ in the Roman Polanski film. It’s on Sony (review).
Zarebski’s Quintet is boldly and poetically confident. There’s a still and striking Adagio which moves from hushed moonlight to tender caresses while coasting not too close to floral decoration salon-style. The concise chasseur Scherzo trips delightfully along before the finale which is grandly rippling as well as alternately stern and playful.
Adrian Thomas provides the much-needed commentary and does so with both style and sterling content.
By the way Jonathan Plowright has also recorded piano concertos by Zelenski and Zarzycki with the BBC Scottish SO under Lukasz Borowicz. So, there’s much more to look forward to. Meantime do relish these fluently lyrical late-romantic delights, irresistibly presented in every way.
  Rob Barnett
Fluently lyrical late-romantic delights irresistibly presented in every way.