Jerzy FITELBERG (1903-1951)
String Quartet No. 1 (1926) [11:34]
Serenade for Viola and Piano (1943) [8:53]
Sonatine for Two Violins (1939) [17:50]
String Quartet No. 2 (1928) [16:57]
Nachtmusik, Op. 9 Fisches Nachtgesang (1921) [5:08]
ARC Ensemble (Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet); Erika Raum, Marie Bérard,
Benjamin Bowman (violin); Steven Dann (viola); Bryan Epperson (cello);
Kara Huber (piano/celesta))
rec. 26-28 January 2015, Koerner Hall, The Royal Conservatory of Music,
Telos Centre for Performance and Learning, Toronto, Ontario CHANDOS CHAN10877 [60:38]
Jerzy Fitelberg was the son of the more famous Grzegorz Fitelberg (1879-1953),
one of Szymanowski’s greatest exponents and later still active
as a propagandist for the music of Lutosławski; try Dutton CDBP9808.
Jerzy, born in Warsaw in 1903, studied successively in Warsaw and Berlin
where he took lessons from Franz Schreker. He left the city in 1933,
settling in Paris before escaping to New York in 1940. He died in 1951,
two years before his father.
The five chamber works in this disc, composed between 1921 and 1943,
offer plenty of nourishment. The String Quartet No.1 of 1926 wastes
no time in outlining its taut, motoric, largely Stravinskian impetus
– think of The Soldier’s Tale, and you’ll
have something of the ethos – though there’s compensatory
warmth in the meno mosso section of the brief opening movement.
There is plenty of zest in the central Allegro, which is the
longest of the five and sports an almost lissom B section. The 1943
Serenade for viola and piano, a product of his American years,
is dedicated to Irene Jacobi, wife of composer Frederick
Jacobi, though it was to be published posthumously. It opens in
an appropriately more pensive way, drawing out those dark viola colours
in the Andante mosso opening paragraph but swiftly goes through
changes in metres and moods.
A Sonatine for two violins promises, perhaps, Prokofiev-like
rewards but this is a different kind of work altogether, very light-hearted
with lightly flecked Polish dance elements, notably the folkloric march
finale. The String Quartet No.2 is the original of what became the Concerto
for String Orchestra, and was dedicated to that great pioneering
ensemble, the Pro Arte Quartet. A prize-winning work it enshrines plenty
of bristling ostinati and elegant Francophile dynamism and witty syncopation.
It was clever to have dedicated it to so fundamentally Franco-Belgian
a quartet as the Pro Arte as it fits their metier well, not least in
the measured hard-won lyricism of the slow movement and the decisive
vivacity of the finale. The last work in the programme is the earliest,
Nachtmusik, and - in one of those engaging programmatic plans
- stylistically the most intriguing. It shows the teenaged Fitelberg
in full-on Second Viennese School immersion. Scored for clarinet, cello
and celesta this five-minute study in nocturnal unease begs several
what-ifs. It’s clear that, for him, it was a cul-de-sac but it
makes for a fascinating listening experience.
The ARC Ensemble, with pianist and celesta player Kara Huber, make the
best possible case for these works. They play with great eloquence and
have been very sympathetically recorded.