Polish Mazurkas
Michal Kleofas OGINSKI in G (1810)
Maria SZYMANOWSKA in C (1825)
Karol KURPINSKI in D (1825)
Fryderyk CHOPIN in B minor, Op. 24 No. 4 (1833-35)
Ignacy Felks DOBRZYNSKI in A minor, Op. 37 No. 2 (1840)
Jozef LUBOWSKI in B-flat Op. 6 (1855)
Karol MIKULI in F minor Op. 4 (1860)
Stanislaw MONIUSZKO in C (1870)
Zygmunt NOSKOWSKI in F minor Op. 23 No. 2 (1880)
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI in E minor Op. 5 No. 2 (1882)
Eugeniusz PANKIEWICZ in A minor Op. 3 No. 2 (1884)
Roman STATKOWSKI in G minor Op. 2 No. 1 (1893)
Ignacy FRIEDMAN Op. 49 No. 2 (1912)
Feliks NOWOWIEJSKI in A minor Op. 20 No. 5 (1920)
Karol SZYMANOWSKI Op. 50 No. 1 (1924)
Apolinary SZELUTO in G Op. 52 No. 1 (1926)
Antoni SZALOWSKI (1928)
Roman MACIEJEWSKI No 3 (1931)
Aleksander TANSMAN No 2 (1932)
Wawrzyniec ZULAWSKI Op 1 No 1 (1933, 1938)
Artur MALAWSKI (1946)
Marian BORKOWSKI (1958)
Witold FRIEMANN Op 34 No 1 (1968)
Andrzej DUTKIEWICZ (1986)
Marian SAWA (1994)
Elzbieta Karas-Krasztel (piano)
rec. 1995, Witold Lutoslawski Polish Radio Concert Studio, Warsaw, Poland
DUX 0795 [64:37]

This is an encyclopedia of the mazurka, from Chopin to Zulawski. Itís a total delight, and the mazurka rhythm never gets old, thanks to the enormous span of styles and indeed eras from which Elzbieta Karas-Krasztel has drawn this selection. We begin in the year Chopin was born, 1810, and work our way all the way up to 1994, through such well-known composers as Paderewski and Szymanowski and the more easily forgotten, like Apolinary Szeluto.
 
The recital is in strict chronological order. Chopinís entry (in B minor, Op 24 no 4) is placed fourth, and it does make the three preceding it sound like harmless trifles. But they are trifles, and their significance is in setting the mazurka template for later geniuses to expand or break. Notice that the second track is by a woman, Maria Szymanowska. Karas-Kraztel does play up Chopinís loyalty to the traditional mazurka rhythms, in a welcome decision, only rarely indulging in todayís practice of making all Chopin sound like cloudy poetry. The immediate successor, by Ignacy Dobrzynski, isnít quite as poetic, but itís still a nuanced and tender work; Karas-Krasztel indulges in a beautiful lead-in to the second subject. Karol Mikuli, in the seventh place, was a student of Chopinís and clearly a very good one; his F minor mazurka is a memorable addition, as is the contribution of the reasonably well-known Stanislaw Moniuszko. Paderewskiís is a charmer too but itís not always the big names who make the splashes: Iíll admit I was more taken with Szelutoís mostly-old-fashioned mazurka than that of his immediate contemporary Szymanowski. Those interested in the ways in which 20th century musical styles influenced the mazurka will find much of interest, from Feliks Nowowiejskiís work, with its spooky atmospheric repeated figures, to the freer rhythmic romp presented by Marian Borkowski.
 
This is a reissue of a recording from the 1990s, and the sound can be slightly glassy, maybe not revealing all of the pianistís coloristic talent. Itís not a deal-breaker, though, and turning up the volume helps. The booklet essay summarizes the mazurka tradition, but only mentions two of the twenty-five composers (Chopin and Szymanowski).
 
Despite any quibbles, though, if you like mazurkas at all youíll need it. None of this music may be of earth-shattering importance, but the works assembled here prove that the mazurka is a great (and still living) art form, with a heritage whose riches only begin with Chopin. The work that went into building a program of 25 mazurkas by 25 composers is hard to imagine, until you hear the infectious joy with which Elzbieta Karas-Krasztel plays all of them, and feel the joy yourself, and then all that effort begins to make sense.
 
Brian Reinhart




An encyclopedia of the mazurka, from Chopin to Zulawski, with many delights between.