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August Fryderyk DURANOWSKI (1770-1834)
Fantaisie suivie de deux airs variées, Op.11 [16:18]
Fantasie avec deux airs variées, Op.9 [13:18]
Violin Concerto, Op.8 (1810) [27:50]
Trois thèmes variées, Op.4 (1805) [19:50]
Paweł Wajrak (violin: concerto)
Angelina Kierońska, Karolina Stasiowska (violins), Anna Podkościelna-Cyz (cello) (opp. 4 & 11)
Ewelina Panocha (piano: op. 9)
Tarnowska Chamber Orchestra/Piotr Wajrak (concerto)
rec. 2015/16, Eurpejskie Centrum Muzyki Krzysztofa Pendereckiego

August Duranowski’s violin studies with Viotti in 1787 were to prove decisive for his prospects as a virtuoso – there appear to be unsubstantiated rumours that the Polish musician taught Paganini a few tricks – but posterity hasn’t looked so kindly on him. Which is not to say that he has been utterly forgotten, more that he has been irredeemably marginalised and his music more read about than performed. So this is a good chance to get to grips with a small portion of it, and to intuit how the concertmaster-soloist might have played during his years in important centres such as Leipzig, Prague, Dresden and Strasbourg.

If his antecedents and need to please an aristocratic audience suggest that his music is largely concertante-virtuoso, that would not be far wrong. The Fantaisie suivie de deux airs variées is flighty, singing and genially embeds native Polish dance rhythms such as the Polonaise and the Crakoviak and Mazur into its syntax. The cadential passage leading into the Mazur gives the soloist a moment in the sun. It’s piece that reveals, perhaps, more about the suave technical finesse of the composer than about his compositional talent. A rather more compelling work is Fantasie avec deux airs variées, Op.9. Its opening mines a vein of sombre distinction that isn’t found much elsewhere in his music. Indeed, things soon turn genial as the composer has fun with the two themes in contrasting faster and slower sections. There’s plenty of rococo fun to be had, and just enough virtuoso grit to get the aristos clapping.

The major work is the Violin Concerto, with its pert and modest orchestral accompaniment. Published in 1810, it finds the composer immersed in Viennese models and with clear stylistic parallels to the confident concerto style of the 1770s and 1780s. The two horns sound bright, the bassoons add a warming cushion and the accompanying fiddles do their best to balance against the rest of the winds. The slow movement surely puts one in mind of a Mozartian operatic moment – the Magic Flute seems to be the most obvious point of reference. Paweł Wajrak plays with wit and style, contributing his own cadenza and self-directing the modest band.

The final piece is Trois thèmes variées, Op.4 for violin and cello, a garnish of operatic variations, with the cello proving largely the droll foil to the violin’s preening virtuosity. Papageno makes an enjoyable appearance in a divertissement that wins no points for profundity but quite a few for leisurely geniality.

The performances are apt and persuasive, played on modern set-ups. This is an enjoyable disc, well annotated, nicely engineered. Nothing strenuously demanding at all.

Jonathan Woolf



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