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A Polish Kaleidoscope Ignacy Feliks DOBRZYŃSKI (1807-1867) Rondo alla polacca op.6 [10:44] Maurycy MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925) Kaleidoscop. Miniaturbilder für das Pianoforte zu 4 Händen op.74 [15:06] Juliusz ZARĘBSKI (1854-1885) Deux morceaux en forme de Mazurka op.5 [10:24] Roman PALESTER (1907-1989) Sonatina na fortepiano na 4 ręce (1940) [12:38]
Ravel Piano Duo (Agnieszka Kozło and Katarzyna Ewa Sokolowska (pianos))
rec. Concert Hall of the Opole Philharmonic, Opole, Poland, 2014. DUX 1174 [48:53]
The booklet notes for this disc open with the following words “There is a great deal of excellent music outside the staple philharmonic repertoire which calls for our attention these days”. I couldn’t agree more. I am forever coming across composers who for a variety of reasons have been allowed to ‘slip between the cracks’. It confounds the idea that the record industry is in crisis because these composers’ music is now being recorded when surely this would never have happened if there was a real problem.
This disc presents piano music for four hands by Polish composers spanning around a hundred years. We kick off with a Rondo alla polacca that is very reminiscent of Chopin, hardly surprising given that the composer Ignacy Dobrzyński was an exact contemporary of the Polish genius. Notes tumble in typical Chopinesque fashion and the piece is very enjoyable.
Maurycy (Moritz) Moszkowski is better known though he has still slipped a little from the radar over the last fifty years. The booklet notes show an understandable irritation with the ‘handing over’ of several Polish composers to other countries because they went abroad to live. This happened in the case of Moszkowski who, though born in Poland in 1854, moved with his family to Dresden in 1865. Whether it is altogether justified to ‘claim’ a composer as Polish if he goes to live in Germany aged 11 is debateable. After all Mahler is described as an Austrian composer though he was already composing music prior to going to Vienna to study aged 15 from his native Bohemia. Bohemian and Moravian folk elements are evident throughout his output so the Czechs could feel equally peeved that they have ‘lost’ Mahler to Austria. There are many such examples. Moszkowski also exhibits a great debt to Chopin in his Kaleidoscop, a set of seven delightful miniatures which are charming and brilliant with flashes of invention at every turn.
Juliusz Zarębski who died tragically young aged only 31 is a loss still acutely felt in Poland among music-lovers who often wistfully speculate what might have been written by this wonderful composer. Incidentally he was born in what is now Western Ukraine and completed a six year course of study in two years at Vienna Conservatory, later continuing his studies in St Petersburg and Rome all of which some might argue hardly classifies him as Polish. However, such matters are unimportant as far as I’m concerned when the music is so captivating and lush, exhibiting flair and panache in spades, as it does in these Deux morceaux en forme de Mazurka. Once again Chopin is looking over Zarębski’s shoulder but time has moved on and a more ‘modern’ approach is in evidence forming a natural progression from the foundations Chopin laid down.
The disc is completed by music from the most recent composer featured; Roman Palester whose Sonatina for fortepiano was composed in 1940. We are now in a completely different world with the influences of such composers as Stravinsky, Hindemith and Bartók coming through in a work that taxes the two pianists whose parts are treated equally. It certainly encourages further exploration of the composer’s oeuvre. Brilliant and virtuosic this work makes a flourishing finish to a thoroughly enjoyable disc. The two pianists are at the very top of their game producing thrilling performances. I have only one gripe which is that at under 50 minutes the disc is short by today’s standards. It’s not as if there are not plenty more works by Polish composers for four hands since Moszkowski’s works for them alone runs to 3 CDs (see Moszkowski: Complete Music for Four Hands: Brilliant Classics 94835). We can justifiably ask for more from Dux and played by this brilliant piano duo.