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Acte Prealable Polish CDs

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Aleksander TANSMAN (1897-1986)
Cinq Impromptus (1922-26) [10:49]
Six Arabesques (1930) [9:52]
Huit Novelettes (1936) [27:48]
Elżbieta Tyszecka (piano)
rec. Łódź Philharmonic Chamber Hall, Łódź, Poland 2013.
ACTE PREALABLE AP 0326 [48:36]

The accompanying booklet lists experienced Polish pianist Elżbieta Tyszecka's 16 previous recordings for Acte Préalable, seven of which are devoted entirely to the music of her compatriot Aleksander Tansman. The composer's sonatas are certainly important, if not especially innovative, as are his sets of mazurkas, if chiefly for their continuation of a nationalist tradition begun by Chopin. Nevertheless, it is probably fair to say that Tansman's most significant music lies outside his solo piano corpus, which consists primarily of collections of miniatures. On the present recording, for example, nineteen pieces have been gathered into three suites, and only three of them last longer than three minutes.
On the other hand, Tansman is such a fertile craftsman that there is always more than sufficient colour and interest to convey the listener effortlessly through the scores. Despite the evocative titles he employs here – Impromptus, Arabesques, Novelettes - Tansman's music rarely sounds particularly Polish or French (like Chopin, he spent most of his life in France). The Novelettes are jazzier in places – by the time of their composition, Tansman counted Gershwin and Charlie Chaplin among his friends – and constitute the expressive core of Tyszecka's recital, but overall Tansman's music is fairly conservative for its time.
So it is that, when the cold hand of the market picks up this disc for inspection, it may well decide that the music is just not 'indispensable' enough to counterbalance the decidedly ungenerous running-time. It seems rather unlikely that many will find 48 minutes of fairly 'standard-issue' piano pieces a good deal at full price. Two recent other-label recordings of Tansman's piano music - Margaret Fingerhut on Chandos (CHAN10527) and Eliane Reyes on Naxos (8.572266 & 8.573021) – offer 25 more minutes and/or a considerable retail discount. Still, Acte Préalable probably have the edge in terms of audio quality, and certainly Tyszecka cedes no ground to her rivals as far as polished performance goes – although her approach is more ascetic than Fingerhut's or Reyes'.
Tyszecka's own notes are offered in the usual Polish and English and pair some background biography with more specific details of the works recorded. The notes have been fairly well translated by a non-native, with just a handful of awkward renderings ("he was also performed of his own compositions"). The back inlay, by the way, gives the recording date as '20-21 September 2013', whereas inside the booklet it becomes '1-2 May 2013'.
The booklet also provides handy details of 32 previous label releases, many of which are certainly worthy of anyone's consideration. The present one is too, for sure, but it may come down ultimately to a simple question of economics.
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