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Grzegorz FITELBERG (1879-1953)
1-5: Five Lieder op.21 (words by Richard Dehmel) (1907) [11:38]
6-11: Six Lieder op.22 (1907) [12:45]
12-15: Trio for violin, cello and piano in F minor op.10 (1901) [45:37]
Ewa Biegas (soprano), Katarzyna Makowska (piano), Adam Mokrus (violin), Natalia Kurzac (cello)
rec. Szymanowski Music Academy Concert Hall, Katowice, Poland: 16 March 2013 (trs. 2,4,6,7), 4-5 July 2013 (trs 1,3,5,8-11); 12 July 2013 (tracks 13-15), 14 July 2013 (track 12)

In my latest batch of eight discs to review there are no fewer than five composers who I’d never come across before. That’s one reason why I do this. I’m always learning and at my age that’s a wonderful situation to still be in. Fitelberg is a case in point.
Reading the booklet notes I learned that he was known principally as a conductor of several orchestras in Poland, Russia and Argentina. He devoted himself to introducing Polish works to the public at large and is credited for the first performances of works such as Szymanowski’s Symphony No.2. He conducted the premieres of various works by Mieczysław Karłowicz and Ludomir Różycki, including his Ballade for piano and orchestra with Anton Rubinstein as soloist. He also introduced Polish audiences to the works of Strauss, Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninov and Sibelius as well as Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Lutosławski and many others. A number of great interpreters collaborated with him and these included Ysaÿe, Rachmaninov, Godowski and Casals.
Fitelberg was obviously taken with the idea of composition too and the two song cycles presented here date from the summer of 1907 when he composed them during a stay in Pougny-Chancy on French-Swiss border. They are quite dark in form and very slow in tempo but have a beauty for all that. They are beautifully sung by Ewa Biegas who’s clear and powerful voice suits the music. She is very well accompanied by pianist Katarzyna Makowska. The booklet notes are in Polish and English while the songs are only given in German - the language in which they are sung - and Polish. I missed not having English translations. I also have to say that the booklet’s English translation is clumsy and at times inaccurate. It would probably have fared better had this been done by the person who dealt with the translation concerning the artist whose painting is used on the cover - a feature of Acte Préalable’s discs of which I heartily approve.
Fitelberg’s trio for violin, piano and cello was written when he was only 22. It is a remarkably mature work for one so young with a powerfully emotional core to its opening movement. This gives way to a folk-inspired movement in the form of the Polish dance Oberek, one of five national dances and meaning ‘spin’. It a considerable contrast to the opening movement and also to the two remaining ones too. It’s back to the strong tide of emotion that we return in the third movement. The finale has a beautifully stated main theme that is truly heartfelt. As it closes reference is made to the work’s opening theme. Throughout the trio all three instruments play as one. This gives a real feeling of unity to a delicious example of early twentieth century trio writing. It’s a work that deserves to be better known by musicians and public alike. For me it was a revelation and is sure to become a favourite of mine. The three musicians play with passion and commitment and really ‘sell’ the work making it quite irresistible.
Acte Préalable’s mission to ensure greater exposure of works by Polish composers other than those who have always been established in the minds of music lovers is exemplary. I hope that this will translate into sales and recognition that there is much music by these composers that is really well worth hearing. The present disc is a worthy contribution to that aim and I wish it every success.
Steve Arloff